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Cupich and Scicluna hit their talking points, but are silent on key problems

Throughout recent interviews, both Cardinal Cupich and Archbishop Scicluna convey a persistent attitude of denial regarding the role of the bishops in the ongoing crisis.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago has been appointed by Pope Francis to be part of the organizing committee for the Vatican's Feb. 21-24 global bishops meeting to address clerical sexual abuse. Cardinal Cupich is pictured in front of Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta, also appointed a member of the committee, at the Vatican Oct. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Two significant interviews dropped late last week, in which key figures in the organization of the upcoming meeting of the heads of the world’s bishops’ conferences on the theme of child protection gave their views of the gathering, its scope, and their hopes for its outcomes. Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago spoke with Crux, while Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta — recently named adjunct secretary to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — spoke with America.

Both sets of remarks are revealing, and merit close attention.

Both men hit all the talking points. “In addition to [its] being a crime,” Cardinal Cupich told Crux, “sexual abuse of minors by clerics is about the corruption of our ministry.” Archbishop Scicluna told America, “[S]exual abuse of minors is not only an egregious phenomenon in itself and a crime, but it is also a very grave symptom of something deeper, which is actually a crisis in the way we approach ministry.” Scicluna went on to say, “Some call it clericalism, others call it a perversion of the ministry.”

Tick one.

The problem is also global. “[T]his is a global issue, it is not a case of geographical or cultural criteria, rather it is a global issue which the church would want to approach with a united front, with respect for the different cultures but with a united resolve and with people being on the same page on it,” Archbishop Scicluna said. “It’s important to note that by calling a global meeting he understands this to be a global issue, and he wants to reinforce our shared commitment as a church to establishing responsiveness, accountability, and transparency,” offered Cardinal Cupich.

Tick two.

Pope Francis understands the problem, too. “Time and again he has shown that he sees the protection of children and the accompaniment of those who have been harmed as a priority of the whole people of God and central to our mission,” said Cardinal Cupich. “[H]e realizes that this issue,” i.e. clergy sexual abuse of minors, “has to be top on the Church’s agenda,” offered Archbishop Scicluna.

Tick three.

They were also careful to manage expectations. “[T]his meeting has to be understood as part of a long-term commitment to reform, realizing that one meeting will not solve every issue,” said Cardinal Cupich. “[I]t is a very important start of a global process which will take quite some time to perfect,” offered Scicluna.

Tick four.

The approach to the “phenomenon” will be at once universal, and culture-appropriate, hence active at different levels of the Church. “[A] number of initiatives on a continental level will start to happen that will re-create the atmosphere of resolve, determination but also purpose which I hope will mark the Rome meeting,” said Archbishop Scicluna, all in order, “to address the issues in a different number of cultures, that have their own restraints, their own important positive aspects but also deficits that have to be discussed on a continental but also local level.” Cardinal Cupich offered, “Of course, assuring [mistakes] are not repeated will require all levels of the Church to take responsibility – local, regional, national, and universal.”

Tick five.

Note also the mention of specific initiatives. Archbishop Scicluna more than hinted at what some of them might be. “[A] stronger role for the metropolitan bishops,” was one — something for which Cardinal Cupich has advocated in separata sede and to which he strongly alluded in his remarks quoted above. “[A] bigger role for the victims in canonical penal processes,” was another Archbishop Scicluna named, though he demurred on whether there would be any changes in these directions as a direct result of the February meeting.

Conspicuously absent from the conversation of both men, was any address of the secrecy of canonical process, for either priests or bishops accused of abuse, coverup, negligence, or other involvement in criminal activity. Throughout both Cardinal Cupich’s and Archbishop Scicluna’s remarks, there is discernible a persistent attitude of denial regarding the role of the bishops in the ongoing crisis.

Both Cardinal Cupich and Archbishop Scicluna assume — at least in the published remarks reviewed here — that the bishops are ready and willing to be part of the solution, while both Churchmen also consistently misidentify the nature and scope of the crisis, and significantly downplay the bishops’ responsibility for getting us to where we are in it.

We hear several times from both men of the horror of sexual abuse of minors, but when we hear of cultural reform, it is in regard to macro-level questions in particular — though not better identified — geographical regions and the corresponding ecclesiastical jurisdictions. There is virtually no acknowledgment of the extent of the rot, much less of the bishops’ active role in spreading it.

It is abundantly clear, however, that Pope Francis is very much in charge. “[W]e cannot avoid the important theological aspect that we bishops are stewards in a hierarchical communion together with the Holy Father,” said Archbishop Scicluna to America, “and so there is a jurisdiction of the Holy Father over each and every one of us bishops that we have to respect when we talk of accountability within the context of the Roman Catholic Church.” In his conversation with Crux, Cardinal Cupich said the meeting’s organizing committee is, “committed to achieving specific outcomes from this meeting that reflect the mind of Pope Francis.”

Couched that way, the question becomes: if the Holy Father is ultimately responsible — and he is — and the purpose of the meeting is to reflect the mind of Pope Francis — and one supposes the chief organizer will know that — then, why hold it at all?

The meeting is being billed as the beginning of a global movement directed from the top to change hearts and minds among the hierarchical leadership, so they really can start to get their heads around how awful child sexual abuse really is — while it almost completely ignores — whether carefully, or downright blithely — the unspoken supposition on which the entire program rests: the world’s bishops need to be convinced of this.

For all their talk of cultural change — and there is a good bit of it — there is next to no readily apparent recognition of the cultural problem that needs changing: the bishops, who are the overseers of the Church, are deeply invested in maintaining the untenable status quo, in which the bishops themselves exercise all the power, control all the money, and make all the decisions; while the lower ranks of the clergy are taught systematically, from their first day of seminary, to keep their heads down and their mouths shut, as the price of their portion in a system and a culture designed for corruption.

After hearing these two leading Churchmen tell it, one gets the impression the February gathering is shaping up to be, at best, another one of those meetings that should have been an e-mail.

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About Christopher R. Altieri 245 Articles
Christopher R. Altieri is a journalist, editor and author of three books, including Reading the News Without Losing Your Faith (Catholic Truth Society, 2021). He is contributing editor to Catholic World Report.


  1. “The whole world groaned to find itself Arian” (St. Jerome, 359 A.D.).

    “[I]t is a very important start of a global process which will take quite some time to perfect,” offered Scicluna. The “perfect” drives out the good.

  2. I wonder if these “churchmen” understand that by placing all bishops so strongly under the Pope (in spite of Vatican II’s assertions that bishops are “vicars of Christ” in their respective sees), they may well be opening the bishops of the USA to RICO charges. Can’t have it both ways!

  3. Altieri’s article by noting the omission magnifies the glaring avoidance of clerical cultural homosexuality and the abuse of young men particularly the newly ordained and seminarians. Author Altieri is correct that Cardinal Cupich’s and Archbishop Scicluna’s preamble remarks reflect the mind of the Pontiff, which was already indicated by his avoidance of the real issue citing instead child abuse now coupled with the diminution of the canonical role [the proposed synod seems ecumenical] of the world’s bishops. The latter was shown when he twice denied the US bishops authority to initiate a viable investigation. Those requests were intended to address clerical homosexual networking particularly among hierarchy. Not child abuse which is now significantly reduced within the Church. If it continues this way nothing of significance will be achieved and the clerical homosexual culture will remain alive and well. The bishops cannot allow themselves to be neutered and must take Scicluna, Cupich, and by implication the Pontiff to task.

    • Dec. 2nd: I noticed that also. No mention of homosexual behavior on the part of some Bishops and Priests. And Cdl. Cupich’s intimacy with Pope Francis is, to me, very disturbing. Also, Phil Lawler was on World Over Live and Raymond Arroyo seemed to be trying to get Phil to say something about the homosexual issue but Lawler would not even say the word. This is not about sexual abuse of minors. It is clearly about homosexuality in seminaries and among Bishops and clergy – I fear this is never going to be addressed. Bishop Morlino tried and now he is gone…perhaps from heaven he will be able to do something. Pope Francis years ago and again recently spoke about his utter disgust with homosexual behavior – are we really hearing his point of view or is Cupich and others like him giving false information – is the Pope being ‘handled’? Only pray can break through the diabolical interference in the Church…

  4. Did you read what Pope Francis wrote?

    “Therefore, beloved sons, we will begin this exhortation by stimulating you to that sanctity of life which the dignity of your office demands.

    Anyone who exercises the priestly ministry exercises it not for himself alone, but for others. [10] Christ himself taught that lesson when he compared the priest to salt and to light, in order to show the nature of the priestly ministry. The priest then is the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Everyone knows that he fulfills this function chiefly by the teaching of Christian truth; and who can be unaware that this ministry of teaching is practically useless if the priest fails to confirm by the example of his life the truths which he teaches? Those who hear him might say, insultingly it is true, but not without justification: [11] they will refuse to accept his teaching and will derive no benefit from the light of the priest.

    Christ himself, the model of priests, taught first by the example of his deeds and then by his words: [12]

    Likewise, a priest who neglects his own sanctification can never be the salt of the earth; what is corrupt and contaminated is utterly incapable of preserving from corruption; where sanctity is lacking, there corruption will inevitably find its way. Hence Christ, continuing this comparison, calls such priests salt that has lost its savor, [13]”

    Ha, ha, ha. Just kidding. That was Pope St. Piux X.

    • Well played, Leslie. If you want Bergoglio’s thinking, add a “not” to every sentence of Pius X. We are experiencing a Satanic attack against the Church today.

      • It is troubling that most of what one reads about proposed solutions to the current slanders sounds like businessmen talking, even when the talk is about how to solve the problem and not about how bad it makes the Church look, and even when it ignores the main problem, lack of chastity and particularly homosexuality.

        Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s interview, described in the article “Spritual Renewal is the Church’s Foremost Need” ( does a better job than most, but even that has a lot of what I guess could be called practicalities or nuts-and-bolts stuff in it. Somehow, even it sounds drearily modern.

  5. The other thing to note is per Scicluna’s comments, that this is the “start” of a process. What have people been doing for the last several years? What has the “commission for protection of minors” been doing all this time and why is it even there if it isn’t really doing anything? Most of the tools needed to address the problem are already present but are not used. This alone tells us this meeting is window dressing, and even moreso along with this fact: that Francis already nixed other possible measures, e.g., the tribunal to judge bishops; and there are other things such as cutting in half the CDF staff for abuse cases. We also know without dispute that in at least one case Francis intervened to have the investigation of a cardinal dropped.

    • Dec. 2nd: From many reports it seems that protection of minors has been successful. The issue here is homosexual activity among Bishops and other clergy – this must be addressed but I fear it may not be if Cdl. Cupich is running the show.

  6. “The start of a long process.” Translation: In February, the can will be kicked down the road, perhaps to 2020, or 2023. or 2028.

    I already know what we will get in February: “Children. Children. Children.”

  7. As usual Mr. Altieri, tells it like most Catholics believe. Excellent article! There is no desire for either of these two Churchmen to admit the fault of the bishops in letting this terrible thing happen because they do NOT want these bishops to have to resign. They want them to STAY! Why? Because they realize the importance of “Episcopalis Communio” signed on September 15th apostolic constitution that, I believe, Pope Francis “slipped in, inferring the increase of power of future synods of bishops to become magisterial with the simple approval of the Pope. In the synod, if a consensus of bishop agree to a proposal, it is passed. The more bishops that approval of homosexuality or are in an active homosexual lifestyle themselves, the easier to pass resolutions. This is very plain to me. I have read the article on “Episcopalis Communio” featured in the NCR Sep 30-Oct 13 2018 over and over. Frankly I am surprised that more Catholic news outlets have not pick up on the story. I thank Mr. Alteri for his on the spot analysis of the comment of these Churchmen and look forward to other excellent articles in Catholic World Report. By Thy Precious Blood, Oh Jesus, purify and sanctify all your priest.

  8. The temptation of the appointed hierarchy in the Church to side bench the overarching issues sets a disastrous course: issues which include minor-child abuse; post pubescent boys abuse; seminarian abuse; homosexual pervasiveness; the secrecy culture; clericalism, and the utter failure to take responsibility for these sins. The comments of the appointed committee betrays “talking points” reflecting an advanced agenda; that will make the upcoming February meeting utterly irrelevant.

  9. Do you want to know why SWciluna was apppinted? Its all very simple. Look ate every act of this pope through the lens of homosexuality, and you will see once certain thread runs throw everything

    It comes as no surprise that Malta Archbishop Charles Scicluna has unofficially lent his support to a homosexual group within his diocese that recently draped a rainbow flag over a Catholic altar as part of a prayer service to end “homophobia.”

    Under Scicluna’s watch, Drachma LGBTI — a group which campaigns for the Catholic Church to accept homosexual “marriage,” sodomy, and adoption of children by same-sex couples — has been given a free pass to meet in Maltese Catholic parishes, retreat centers, and in the Catholic chapel of the country’s only university.

    Cupich we know all about. Wants homosexuals in gay marriages to take communion, despite being in serious grave mortal sin.

    • “A priest goes to Heaven or a priest goes to Hell with a thousand people behind.” – St. Jean-Marie Vianney

      “We shall find out at the day of judgment that the greater number of Christians who are lost were damned because they did not know their own religion.” – St. Jean-Marie Vianney

      “Whoever does not hate error, does not love the truth”.  – G.K. Chesterton

  10. Why, pray tell, are the bishops always referring to the sexual abuse of “minors?” It is quite obvious that the bulk of today’s abuse (and this has been true for some time) is homosexual liaisons between bishops and/or priests with young seminarians who may be over the age of consent. Implied here, is that if a priest seduces a seminarian (or vice versa) it’s pretty much ok. This is despite the fact that the Church has long taught that homosexuality is a “disordered” state – a teaching everyone in the world would have agreed with 30 years ago and most still do. (It’s easy to forget how much of the world looks at the LGBT agenda as a kind of disease of the West.) The Church also demands celibacy from priests. The idea that Mother Church has become a cozy home for active homosexual priests is not a good one – not if Church teaching is based on truth.

  11. What is needed at this point is for the laity to take initiative in gumshoe investigation of people like Cupich. And…the Pope.
    It is very unfortunate that civil authorities will have to clean up this mess. But that is what is needed, and the laity have to promote their doing so, until at some probably late date the Church finally handles the issue of how to handle its own violators of civil law.
    The Pope is immune in canon law and presumably in Vatican City law. But he too must be investigated, as a deterrent to future Popes. Public information and its reporting through responsible journalism may turn out to be its own condign punishment of this pontificate.
    Btw, anyone know how the Red Hat Report folks are doing in their investigations?

  12. Thanks Samton for the truth about the evil promoted by the anti-bishop Scicluna. He promotes evil, makes war against the Kingdom of Jesus, as yet another clone in the McCarrick abuser establishment, just like the criminally abusive boy-wonder Cupich, who lives to defy the Gospel of Jesus and hunt down and imprison faithful priests.

    May both men be retired and repent for their crimes against The Lord and His Church.

    Men who

  13. It sounds like rather than repenting over homosexual activity, the Pope and his minions, want to “normalize” and “de-criminalize” homosexual acts in the minds of 1.5 billion Christians. This way even if the RICO investigations find secular crimes, the Pope and Bishops can respond, that this was past Church ideology, and no longer a sin, and no longer a crime to cover-up, non-sinful behavior. The money-laundering will be another issue…

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