IL- Detailed SNAP statement re Cupich's abuse track record

For immediate release: Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014

Statement by Kate Bochte, SNAP leader, 630-768-1860, [email protected]

Many commentators are stressing that Cupich is perceived as a “moderate” in terms of his theology, philosophy or behavior. It's important to remember, however, that Catholic officials of all stripes have concealed - and often are still concealing – awful crimes against children. “Left wing,” “right wing” and “centrist” bishops deal with clergy sex crimes and cover ups in remarkably similar ways. On this continuing crisis in the church, it's irresponsible to assume that Cupich will be any better than George. Prudent people will remain skeptical and let Cupich hopefully prove, through his deeds (not his words) that he is committed to the safety of children.   

Before we talk about Cupich's past, let's focus on what he could and should do, right now, to safeguard innocent kids and vulnerable predators in the church and help suffering Chicago abuse victims and betrayed Chicago Catholics feel reassured.

--Historically, incoming prelates first say mass at the diocesan Cathedral. We urge Cupich to break this tradition. We beg him to go first to one of the parishes where Chicago's most notorious predator priest, the now defrocked Daniel McCormack, molested kids. We beg Cupich to prod his flock to aggressively seek out others McCormack may have assaulted and who may still be suffering in silence, shame and self-blame. (That kind of outreach is effective, but we have rarely seen a bishop do it.)

--He should put Fr. Robert Stepek in a remote, secure, independent treatment center so children will be safer.

--At least 39 Spokane priests have been publicly accused of child sexual abuse. That's a very high number for a relatively small diocese. Cupich should explain, in detail, what he has done that goes “above and beyond” the bare minimum of paying settlements and suspending predators.

--He and his top aides in Spokane acknowledge that 27 of these 39 clerics have molested children. He should explain that discrepancy.

--He should tell parishioners and the public precisely what he has done to warn parents about and protect kids from Patrick G. O'Connell, the most prolific and notorious child molesting cleric in the Northwest.

Here's what we know about Cupich's past:

1) Earlier this year, a priest, Fr. Brad Reynolds, was still on the job at a Catholic college in Cupich's Spokane diocese even though

--eight years earlier, the priest was sued for molesting two boys in Alaska,

--was removed from his duties by his Jesuit supervisors, and

--was allegedly put under 24 hour surveillance at a Jesuit institution.

We urged Cupich to warn the public and their parishioners about the priest him and insist that Jesuits suspend him and aggressively reach out to others he may have hurt.

As best we can tell, Cupich ignored our request.     

2) In 2010, we urged Cupich to reach out to others who may have been hurt by a priest, Fr. William J. Vogel, who exploited and impregnated a Catholic parishioner. As best we can tell, Cupich ignored our request.  

3) In 2007, we backed Cupich in the election for head of the US bishops' sex abuse committee chairmanship. At that time, we admitted that we knew little about Cupich but endorse his candidacy simply because his competitors have poorer track records on abuse cases. (Because of the Spokane bankruptcy, much of his abuse track record was sealed or hidden.)

Since then, what we've seen and learned about Cupich has been disappointing.

4) Cupich won that election. But he did little or nothing to strengthen a very weak and rarely enforced abuse “charter” that had been hastily adopted five years earlier (despite repeated claims by Catholic officials that they were “learning” more about abuse and were “getting better” at dealing with it)

And under his tenure as chair of the USCCB's child protection committee, two of the most disturbing and clearly egregious scandals surfaced

--Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn refused to call law enforcement. He was later criminally convicted of “failure to report” suspected abuse (becoming only the second bishop in the world to have his ignominious distinction). Cupich basically did nothing.

--Philadelphia prosecutors disclosed that 37 accused predator priests were still on the job in Philadelphia.

In each case, a firestorm of protest ensued. In each case, evidence showed that the bishops' abuse “charter” was ineffectual. Yet Cupich said and did virtually nothing. Despite his post as the bishops' “point man” on abuse, Cupich was not even willing to publicly criticize his colleagues after their recklessness, callousness and deceit were exposed.

5) Time and time again, Cupich claims that the bishops' abuse “charter” works, despite plentiful and mounting evidence (besides the KC and Philly scandals) that it is not.

6) While his Spokane predecessor sent the diocese into Chapter 11, Cupich could have reversed that irresponsible, self-serving course.

7) Here's what we wrote about Cupich when he became head of the Spokane diocese:


The bottom line: For year after year after year, Cardinal George continued to put his own reputation and comfort above his flock's safety and healing. And for three years, he headed US bishops conference, so his example and inaction likely encouraged his colleagues to behave in similarly irresponsible ways.

We fear other accused child-molesting clergy are in still Chicago parishes right now, unbeknownst to parishioners, allegedly being monitored by peers. We can’t help but wonder, of course, what other shocking and irresponsible actions remain hidden.

We hope but are not confident that Cupich will do more to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded. But complacency protects no one. Reporting known and suspected clergy sex crimes and cover ups to independent sources (therapists, police, prosecutors, and advocacy groups) WILL protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.

We beg anyone with knowledge or suspicions about sexual misdeeds by Catholic clerics or cover ups by Catholic officials to find the courage to speak up and reach out, but contact secular authorities, not the church employees.

Finally, it's sad that Manuel Diaz is opining on Chicago's new archbishop in the Tribune. Earlier this year, University of Dayton officials found that he “likely” sexually harassed a married couple.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, d[email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected])


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