Cardinal Cupich Denies Report He and Wuerl Contrived Separate Plan to Handle Abuse Claims

Cardinal Blase Cupich and Cardinal Donald Wuerl
TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images/MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich is denying a report that he and Washington, DC, Cardinal Donald Wuerl collaborated to formulate an alternate plan for bishop accountability in abuse claims ahead of a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“The allegation is false,” Cupich told Crux on Sunday. “At no time prior to the Baltimore meeting did the two of us collaborate in developing, nor even talk about, an alternative plan.”

Cupich was responding to a Catholic News Agency (CNA) report Friday that he and Wuerl devised a separate proposal in advance of the meeting during which the bishops were voting on a plan for new standards of accountability for bishops regarding claims of sexual abuse.

At their meeting in Baltimore, the bishops were considering proposals for standards of conduct and the creation of a new independent lay commission that would investigate claims against bishops.

According to the CNA report, the bishops received a surprise announcement during their conference that the Vatican wished them to delay voting on measures related to sexual abuse until after a February summit of the heads of bishops’ conferences from around the globe.

CNA reported that Cupich submitted an alternate proposal that would have allegations against bishops investigated by their metropolitan archbishops and archdiocesan review boards, instead of a lay board.

The report continued:

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 the Congregation for Bishops.

In August, Wuerl suggested a policy in which claims against a bishop would be brought to a board composed of both laity and bishops and that the findings of these boards should be presented to the Holy See’s representative, the Apostolic Nuncio.

“Thus there would be clearly the recognition that the final judgment rests with the divinely established head of the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Rome,” Wuerl wrote at the Catholic Standard, the archdiocesan magazine.

CNA reported its sources informed that, at the Baltimore conference, Wuerl “chose to step back from the plan’s presentation,” and that it was Cupich who “appeared to be positioning himself as an unofficial but influential policy-maker in the conference.”

In September, Wuerl announced he would be resigning after being implicated in a report by a Pennsylvania grand jury that alleged he had arranged for transfers of priests who had engaged in sexual abuse, rather than remove them from ministry. Additionally, the report claimed he hid information about abusing priests from law enforcement.

In August, Cupich minimized the shocking allegations of former papal nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò that accused Pope Francis of ignoring sanctions placed on disgraced Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, despite knowing the former cardinal had sexually abused priests, seminarians, and minors.

“The pope has a bigger agenda,” Cupich told NBC News. “He’s gotta get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the Church.”

In his document, Viganò linked the church’s sexual abuse crisis as well as ensuing coverups by some bishops to an extensive “homosexual network” within the church.

Viganò said Wuerl was “well aware of the continuous abuses committed by Cardinal McCarrick and the sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict” and yet ignored the sanctions and allowed McCarrick “to reside at a seminary in Washington D.C.”

Also, Viganò attributed a number of appointments — such as Cupich in Chicago and Cardinal Joseph Tobin in Newark — to McCarrick’s influence over Pope Francis.

Pope Francis has doubled down on his claim that both Viganò’s accusations and the calls for accountability are the work of Satan.

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