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Cupich and Wuerl collaborated on alternative sex abuse proposal

by Ed Condon

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago speaks Nov. 12 during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Washington D.C., Nov 16, 2018 / 06:56 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington collaborated extensively on a recently proposed policy for handling abuse allegations against bishops, CNA has learned.

Cupich submitted the plan Tuesday to leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference, proffering it as an alternative to a proposal that had been devised by conference officials and staffers.

The conference’s proposed plan would have established an independent lay-led commission to investigate allegations against bishops. The Cupich-Wuerl plan would instead send allegations against bishops to be investigated by their metropolitan archbishops, along with archdiocesan review boards.

Sources in Rome and Washington, DC told CNA that Wuerl and Cupich worked together on their alternative plan for weeks, and presented it to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops before the U.S. bishops’ conference assembly in Baltimore. Cupich and Wuerl are both members of Congregation for Bishops.

The Cupich-Wuerl plan was submitted to the U.S. bishops even after a Vatican directive was issued Monday barring U.S. bishops from voting on any abuse-related measures. The Vatican suspended USCCB policy-making on sexual abuse until after a February meeting involving the heads of bishops’ conferences from around the world.

An official at the Congregation for Bishops told CNA on Thursday that the substance of the plan presented by Cupich at the Baltimore meeting is known in the congregation as “Wuerl’s plan.” The official would not confirm whether the congregation had received an advance copy of the document.

The idea of amending USCCB policy so that allegations against a bishop would be handled by his metropolitan archbishop was suggested by Wuerl publicly in August.

Senior chancery officials in Washington described the plan as a collaborative effort by the cardinals, telling CNA that Wuerl and Cupich first informed the Congregation for Bishops several weeks ago about their idea for the “metropolitan model” to handle complaints against a bishop, and suggested they had continued to discuss the plan with Congregation officials since that time.

“It was a mutual effort,” one Archdiocese of Washington official told CNA.

While Cupich played an active role in conference sessions this week, and proposed the detailed plan for an alternative to the conference’s special commission, Wuerl did not make any public comment on the plan, which at least some in Rome consider to be “his,” and which he first suggested in public 3 months ago.

Sources familiar with the behind-the-scenes discussions in Baltimore told CNA that Wuerl chose to step back from the plan’s presentation, providing advice and counsel but not seeking to take public credit. A spokesman for Wuerl declined to comment on that decision.

Several bishops in Baltimore told CNA that Cupich appeared to be positioning himself as an unofficial but influential policy-maker in the conference. His status would be strengthened if the plan he introduced in Baltimore gained support in Rome, they said, especially if it were favored over the plan proposed by conference officials.

It is not clear to what extent Cupich considered how the manner in which he presented his plan could be interpreted. A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago told CNA that Cardinal Cupich was away, and could not be reached for comment.

A source familiar with the drafting of the alternative proposal told CNA that Wuerl was not involved in the way the plan was presented in Baltimore, saying that Wuerl’s only concern was developing the best possible plan for tackling the sexual abuse crisis, and not “playing games” at the conference.

Many American bishops arrived in Baltimore this week expecting to approve the proposed the independent commission, along with proposed standards for episcopal conduct. Bishops were stunned to discover Monday that they could not vote on the measures, following the last-minute instruction from the Congregation for Bishops, received Sunday night by conference president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.

An Archdiocese of Washington official suggested to CNA that the Congregation for Bishops’ last minute suspension of voting at the Baltimore meeting might have been because the conference’s independent commission proposal was not sent to Rome until Oct. 30.

DiNardo, however, told a press conference Monday that while the draft document for the independent commission had been sent to Rome at the end of October, the USCCB had been in consistent contact with Vatican officials as the texts were developed.

DiNardo said that “When we were in Rome [in October] we consulted with all of [the Vatican dicasteries]. I mean, [that’s what] we do.”

“When I met with the Holy Father in October, the Holy Father was very positive in a general way – he had not seen everything yet – of the kind of action items we were looking to do.”

Cupich spoke from the floor immediately after DiNardo’s announcement of the change Monday morning. The cardinal suggested that the bishops continue to discuss the proposed measures and take non-binding votes on them. He offered no indication at that time that he would introduce a completely different plan.

By Tuesday afternoon, the Chicago cardinal rose to question the premise of the USCCB’s proposed independent commission, asking if it was a reflection of sound ecclesiology. Cupich suggested that the commission be seen as a way of “outsourcing” difficult situations.

Shortly thereafter, Cupich submitted to conference leaders a seemingly well-prepared and comprehensive “Supplement to the [USCCB] Essential Norms,” which outlined in detail the plan he had developed with Wuerl.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said from the floor that the “metropolitan model” appeared to align closer with the Church’s hierarchical structure.

“I really do favor the use of the metropolitan and the metropolitan review board for these cases… but that would require that the Holy See give metropolitan archbishops more authority than we have,” Chaput told the conference.

Chaput told the bishop that the reason the USCCB executive committee opted to pursue the idea of an independent commission instead of developing a plan based around the metropolitan archbishop was because they did not think the “metropolitan model’ would have support in Rome.

“When we discussed this at the executive committee level we, some people, thought it would be easier for us to develop this independent commission than to get the Church to change canon law,” he said.

Sources close to the USCCB told CNA that if the executive committee had known the Vatican might support the “metropolitan model,” it might have been pursued earlier, with a proposal being circulated to members by the conference leadership. A spokesperson for the USCCB declined to comment on that possibility.

Cupich had suggested during the meeting that either or both plans could be voted on in non-binding resolutions in order to give the Vatican a sense of the American episcopate’s desires. Ultimately, no vote was taken.

Instead, as the Baltimore meeting ended, DiNardo agreed that Cupich’s plan would be developed alongside the independent commission plan, by a special task force consisting of former USCCB presidents Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, and Archbishop Wilton Gregory. DiNardo will have the option of presenting either or both possibilities when he and conference vice president Archbishop Jose Gomez attend the Vatican’s February meeting.

USCCB spokespersons declined several times to comment on any role Cupich or Wuerl, members of the Congregation for Bishops, might have played in developing the congregation’s reaction to the special commission plan.


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18 Comments

  1. The fact that Cupich is clearly collaborating with the disgraced cover up artist Wuerl is yet another reason he should be forced to resign in disgrace.
    He is worse than Bernardin, who at least had some views that were in line with Catholic orthodoxy. Cupich, on the other hand, has none.

    • civilized discussion yes , how does the church rebound from all the turmoil , is it true what they say about the church , to hide a hethen is to be a hethen !

  2. Seriously? Allegations against bishops would go to another bishop? The foxes would be guarding the henhouse? You can’t make this stuff up.

  3. Wuerl is an arch-liar and criminal abuse protector.

    He lied to be he face of the National Review Board in 2002-04, witholding abuse secrets from the NRB. He finally got caught by the DA in Pennsylvania.

    Since Wuerl (co-engineer with fellow criminals Mahony, McCarrick and Danneels et al) of the corrupt election of the “pontiff” Francis has lived his life to thwart justice and protect his millionaire life-style on Embassy Row in Washington DC, he has his reward, which are “the Gods” he worships: lust, money and power.

    These men are diabolical post-Catholic agents.

  4. So let’s see if I have this right: wayward bishops could be reviewed by the likes of …Cupich and Wuerl?
    For a bit, I pondered whether this was an April Fool’s article, or something that mistakenly got published in CWR and not the Onion.
    We couldn’t even get a lot of bishops to take these things seriously. Now the bishops are going to be reviewed by … archbishops?
    What happened to the idea of expanded lay involvement in scrutinizing prelates? After all, it’s *our* kids who could be subjected to predator priests and predator prelates.
    We need more George Neumayr types. Cupich has far too much power now. The Pope’s right hand guy in the U.S. Am watching closely developments in the Red Hat Report initiative.

  5. Quaint. Metropolitans already have oversight over their suffragan bishops. The current proposal would only give metropolitans the extra authority to investigate. Sadly, many of our metropolitans are also corrupt; therefore, the Wuerl/Cupich proposal is essentially a proposal to do little.

    By the way, both these men are metropolitans: Would anyone trust them to properly investigate a corrupt bishop?

  6. Initial thoughts on the now-two proposals–(a)the collegial (and stood-up) USCCB proposal and (b) the grandstanded “metropolitan model”.

    First, and regarding the latter, there is actually merit worth developing, but how much might the metropolitan model approach provide BOTH a needed structure AND unneeded insulation of such metropolitan centers (un-centers?) from outside scrutiny? Think Chicago or maybe the old days with disgraced Cardinal Mahoney’s San Francisco.

    Second, now think Alabama Courthouse. Where the secularist elites force the removal of the Ten Commandments from public spaces, why can’t this concise “code of conduct” be posted for all to see and contemplate, in each bishop’s lobby and office?

    And third, think transparent and long-term Mission Church. In our parish the Mission Statement is Matthew 28:19-20. That’s all. And the Vision Statement is Acts 2:42. That’s all, and that’s quite enough.

  7. Folks, just make sure that everyone you know understands that they must make sure that everyone that they know understands that criminal clerical sex abuse must be immediately reported to the POLICE, NOT discreetly reported to your parish priest or to your bishop, or to anybody in the chancery office.

    There are civil laws against making false allegations and breaking them must be punished severely in fairness to innocent priests and prelates who will be falsely accused.

    Quiet discretion to protect the good name of the Church by way of reporting criminal abuse to Church officials instead of to the police is pointless. The Church’s “good name” has already been destroyed — by Church officials who mishandle such reports.

    As for priests and prelates who exploit adult seminarians by using their positions of power over the seminarians’ lives to coercively seduce them, that is technically consensual sex between adults according to civil law. The Church itself will have to deal with that.

    If the hierarchy really wanted to purge the Church of this abuse of seminarians, it wouldn’t be that hard to look over seminary records — surely such records exist — and get the names of men who abruptly left the seminary, or who were rejected, and ask them why they left, or what they think the reason was for their being rejected. If a pattern develops where the reason they aren’t priests now was their rejection of homosexual advances, it will become clear which members of the hierarchy need to be purged from the Church. Such an approach wouldn’t be that difficult to carry out. If it isn’t ever done that will reveal the depth of the homosexualization of the clergy.

    I know a man who decades ago was in the seminary and reported to the rector homosexual advances towards him by a fellow seminarian. He was treated by the rector as though HE had done something wrong and his bishop was advised that he wasn’t fit for the priesthood. He is no longer Catholic. At the time I thought my brother had been the victim of some kind of weird aberration from the basic integrity of the Church. In light of all that has been revealed since then, it appears that that was no weird aberration, but something that was routinely happening to seminarians.

  8. So, the way this would would, if it had been in place a couple of years ago, is that any bishop who was accused of something would have been judged by McCarrick.

    Or Bernardin
    Or Rembert Weakland.

    No, no problems at all.

  9. Wuerl has resigned but is still exercising power. This is the way it is in Pope Francis church. Wuerl may never really be removed. He is one of the favored boys and as in a Latin American dictatorship, nothing matters except your proximity to the strong man. So Pope Francis’ sidekicks will never really be gone. Like the disgraced communications guy, they simply removed his title. He is still there, doing the same job. The Papacy is now a tin horn Latin American dictatorship.

    • I thought that I just had to comment, to do my part but so many have said it so well. I am tired of these megalomaniacs and so ready for the Lord to come again.

  10. I am trying to re-read City of God again, (Got to 2nd chapter when I was in my 20’s), and now that I am in my 50’s it all makes so much sense. Blessed be the gift of the mind of St. Augustine to the Catholic faith. Right now it seems evident that elements of the Catholic hierarchy are acting more like rulers of the “City of Lies” than the citizens of the “City of God” and if the cries for justice are continued to be ignored in favor of the propping up of the Institution, then the hand of God will intervene as in so many instances in our human history, (For instance it can’t be just coincidence that Gettysburg and Vicksburg ensured the end of slavery in the U.S. on the 4th July!). Will Bergolio be the last Pope of Rome?

  11. An easy solution for P. Francis – Just turn the whole thing over to his friend and staunch supporter Cardinal Danneels. That will get the topic out of Rome and into the hands of a real expert who will surely know exactly how to handle things and simultaneously provide an international ecclesial veneer to shadow the American disgrace by putting it in the context of Rome, Chile, Argentina, Netherlands, Guam, et al.

  12. Cupich was a disaster as Bishop of the Spokane Diocese, and proving to be even worse in Chicago. He is a saboteur and power hungry. I do not trust him.

  13. Cupich and Wuerl propose that investigations of bishops should d be under the jurisdiction of metropolitans and their Archdiocesan review boards wherein geographically the allegations of episcopal abuse or malfeasance occur. Of course morally corrupt & compromised prelates would favor that kind of arrangement over broader accountability to the USSCB as a whole (which all too often has been ineffectual enough without new bureaucratic mechanisms that are deliberately designed to reducie its attempts at requiring greater collegial accountability). Other bishops supporting this counter-proposal to the original USSCB’s proposal may be just naive as to what kind of trap Cuouch and Wuerl are setting. The so-called Metropolitan Plan increases the likelihood of BOTH the dangers that attend group think AND interference with the independence of any lay investigators/consultants. Bishops assigned to cases involving oversight of other bishops should NOT have personal connections with the accused, especially if they owe their position due to the recommendation of the latter. Assigned bishops should come from outside the Province and not be able to dictate the outcome of any investigation but, rather, such bishops should be empowered instead to overrule any ordinary under investigation as well as his chancery officials when it comes to access to documents and witnesses. That won’t happen if the bishops on such a task force feel like they owe something to the area bishops or even feel a need to play nice because they live in the same province and will need to deal with the same faces long after any investigation is over. Cdl Cupich, Cdl Tobin, and Cdl Wuerl (who still runs the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. as Apostolic Administraror) belong to self-protecting, career advancing networks so putting them in any kind of leadership role over suffragan bishops would be like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. You can be certain that any Archdiocesan-level review board under their purview will be stacked with admirers, enablers and co-dependents even if lay. Cdl DiNardo and Cdl Dolan need to resist pressure to water down their original proposal and instead seek the help of faithful lay experts on how to beef it up. This is not about disobedience to the pope but about obedience to Christ. The pink elephants in the room need to know that fellow bishops who care about truth and virtue see them and are on to their game.

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