Cardinal Blase Cupich suggested that allegations that Pope Francis knowingly rehabilitated an abusive American cardinal proceed from racism in a television interview with NBC News Tuesday.
In the interview, the Archbishop of Chicago responded to a recent 11-page statement by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former papal nuncio to the United States, that alleges a series of misdeeds by high-ranking Catholic prelates, including Pope Francis himself.
“Quite frankly, they also don’t like him because he is a Latino,” he said.
As a number of individuals pointed out on social media, playing the racist card seems particularly out of place in this instance, since Archbishop Viganò, who authored the report, comes from the north of Italy, not far from where the pope’s family is from.
Others were also quick to note that Pope Francis is actually not a Latino, but a white European born in Argentina.
In his NBC interview, Cardinal Cupich also seemed to suggest that affirming or denying the serious allegations in the Viganò report is not a priority for the pope, and come after other key issues such as environmental concerns and immigration.
“The pope has a bigger agenda. He’s gotta get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the Church,” Cardinal Cupich said.
“We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this,” he added.
On Sunday, Pope Francis acknowledged having read the Viganò report but refused to comment on the accusations it contained.
On the papal plane returning from Ireland, Anna Matranga from CBS News asked the pope whether allegations were true that Viganò had in fact informed him in 2013 of sexual abuse perpetrated by Cardinal McCarrick and subsequent sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict XVI, including restrictions on his travel and appearances in public.
“May I ask you whether these two things are true?” Ms. Matranga queried.
“I read that statement this morning,” he said, and then proceeded to encourage journalists who were interested to read the report for themselves and draw their own conclusions.
The pope added: “I won’t say a word about this.”
Pressing further, Ms. Matranga asked the pope when was the first time that he heard about the abuses committed by the former cardinal, at which point the pope sidestepped the question.
“This comes out in the statement regarding McCarrick. Study it and then I will speak,” he said.
Cardinal Cupich himself was named in the Viganò report, and later released a statement expressing “astonishment” over allegations that former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was behind his appointment as archbishop of Chicago.
In his communiqué, Archbishop Viganò referred to Cardinal Cupich as a man “blinded by his pro-gay ideology” who was appointed as archbishop outside of normal Church protocols because of the powerful backing of three influential cardinals, including McCarrick.
Cardinal Cupich denied being aware of having benefited personally from the patronage of Cardinal McCarrick, saying he did not know “who recommended me for the Archdiocese of Chicago.”
“Pope Francis has made it clear that he wants pastoral bishops, and I work each day to live up to that expectation in collaboration with many fine lay and religious women and men, my brother priests and brother bishops,” he said.
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