IL- Victims worry about new head of Chicago Archdiocese
For immediate release: Friday, Sept. 19, 2014
We hope that Chicago's next Catholic Archbishop will do more to prevent future clergy sex crimes and cover-ups. But we're not optimistic. Pope Francis, like his predecessors, keeps promoting bishops who have concealed or are concealing heinous sexual violence against kids. Cupich is another prelate like this.
Earlier today, the Spokesman Review reported that more than 200 victims have come forward in Spokane.
Cupich acted irresponsibly by exploiting bankruptcy law to avoid embarrassing disclosures about the complicity of the Spokane church hierarchy in dreadful crimes against kids.
In a 2010 interview with a Washington newspaper, Cupich made some startling comments about the church’s child sex abuse and cover up crisis. Cupich’s remarks endanger kids, hurt victims and mislead Catholics by mischaracterizing and minimizing the horrific scandal.
In the interview, Cupich makes three stunning and patently ridiculous claims.
1) “Sexual abuse of children is not happening in the church today.”
2) “The scandal is that, 30 years ago, the world of psychology, criminal law and the church didn’t handle the situation well. Society didn’t handle the situation well.”
3) “Various institutions that work with kids that don’t have in place codes of conduct and training that we have in place.”
Let’s look at all three of these claims.
First, on the very day Cupich’s interview appeared, Illinois newspapers were reporting on the new guilty plea by a Chicago area predator priest, Fr. Alejandro Flores. He was ordained in 2009. He molested a boy in 2010. Ancient history? Hardly!
Even worse, the local bishop’s top staff knew this predator had problems even before he was ordained. According to one newspaper: “Prosecutors say Catholic officials had some warning signs about Flores” because he “was caught with gay porn on his computer” and “some of the images appeared to be those of young boys.”
So what did the Illinois bishop do? He warned no parishioners about this incident and went ahead and ordained Flores anyway.
The day before Cupich’s interview appeared in print, Fr. Joseph Fiala was arrested in Kansas for child sex crimes he allegedly committed in 2007 and 2008.
(And I write this within hours of reading that a California priest has been suspended from active duty because of allegations that he molested two brothers “within the last two years.”)
We could go on and on and on.
Every day, a blog called “The Abuse Tracker” posts dozens of news accounts from credible media outlets across the world about current clergy sex abuse and cover up cases. Most, sadly, involve Catholic clerics. (It’s available at BishopAccountability.org)
Catholic officials can try mightily to distance themselves from pedophile priests when those priests are caught and admit guilt. But as long as Catholic officials continue to recruit troubled men to the priesthood and ordain them despite clear warning signs, this horrific, on-going crisis will continue.
Second, Cupich claims, “The scandal is that, 30 years ago, the world of psychology, criminal law and the church didn’t handle the situation well. Society didn’t handle the situation well.”
It’s hard to know where to start with this one. Sure, much of society has improved over the past three decades when it comes to child sexual abuse. But the Catholic church stands apart as the one institution that has attracted, harbored, protected and transferred more child predators - literally thousands of child molesting priests, nuns, bishops, seminarians, brothers and other staff – than any other.
And while there certainly are too many abusive coaches and teachers, it’s nearly impossible to find one who has molested dozens or hundreds of kids because he or she was deliberately moved from place to place by irresponsible supervisors. Why? Because that happens most in the Catholic church, and always has.
(Isn’t it sad to see an alleged spiritual leader implying “Heck, we’re no worse than other groups that caused children to suffer”?)
Cupich disingenuously blames ‘psychology’ for part of the church’s crisis. He conveniently neglects to mention that if he and his colleagues had called the police about clergy child sex crimes (both known and suspected), hundreds of predator priests would be in prisons, not in therapy. He also obscures the fact that pedophile priests were deliberately sent for counseling to Catholic institutions where the top priority wasn’t protecting kids and ‘healing’ predators but keeping secrets.
(With their vast resources, Catholic bishops could have sent their ‘troubled’ priests to the ‘best and brightest’ in the therapeutic community. Instead, however, they chose to protect themselves, their colleagues and their secrets by utilizing instead therapists who would help bishops conceal the crimes and give bishops the ‘recommendations’ to return pedophiles to ministry that bishops so desperately sought.)
Third, Cupich claims that “various institutions that work with kids that don’t have in place codes of conduct and training that we have in place.” We challenge Cupich to stop the McCarthy smear tactics and specifically tell us what other institutions lack the supposed abuse programs that the Catholic church has allegedly adopted (albeit begrudgingly and belatedly). It’s just wrong to cast aspersions on an entire group – agencies and organizations that deal with kids.
And we challenge the ludicrous notion that ‘codes of conduct’ are in any way effective when it comes to child sex crimes. Does Cupich honestly believe that, years ago, even one confused priest told himself, “Gee, I’m not sure sodomizing a child is right or wrong. My bishop doesn’t make me sign a ‘code of conduct’ forbidding child sodomy, so I guess I’ll go ahead and assault a little girl or boy today.”
These “codes of conduct” are like much of the bishops’ response to this heinous scandal – it’s a smart PR move that makes people feel good and believe reform is happening. But it has no impact whatsoever in the real world.
It’s also worth considering what Cupich doesn’t say. He never once acknowledges that the church’s rigid, all-male, secretive culture plays any role in this crisis. He never once admits that bishops ignore and conceal child sex crimes because they can (since in this monarchical structure, they answer to virtually no one).
It’s misleading to talk about the crisis without mentioning its primary cause – the recklessness, callousness and deceit of bishops who repeatedly, knowingly and secretly transferred child molesting clerics to unsuspecting parishioners, and who shun victims, deceive reporters, stonewall police, intimidate witnesses, destroy evidence, fabricate alibis, and discredit whistleblowers.
Finally, Cupich stresses the church’s “need to rebuild trust.” We respectfully disagree. The church needs to stop finger-pointing, excuse-making, and blame-shifting. The church needs to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded. When that happens, trust will be restored.
We do agree with Cupich in one respect. He says that the church hierarchy is “more than the sins of our past.” Indeed, the church hierarchy is also, sadly, the sins of its present.
We wish Cardinal Francis George well as he battles his cancer. We hope he has a long retirement. He did much good as the head of the archdiocese. But he acted selflishly and secretively and irresponsibly in case after case after case involving child molesting priests, nuns, seminarians and other church employees. We don't expect much better of Cupich.
We hope that Chicago Catholics and citizens resist the temptation to “sugar-coat” George's dreadful track record on children's safety and the temptation to assume that his successor will somehow be better on this continuing scandal.
Complacency protects no one. Only vigilance protects kids.
(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 SNAPnetwork.org)