Chicago cardinal defends compensation plan, calls for information on abusers after Illinois abuse report

ROME — The archbishop of Chicago on Thursday called on the Illinois attorney general to come forward with information about newly discovered cases of sexual abuse by priests that were included in a statewide investigative report, saying he would be happy to add the names to the list of priests who have been credibly accused if the allegations are substantiated. .

In his first interview since the report was published Tuesday, Cardinal Blase Cupich expressed surprise that the 125 new cases involved priests he had never heard of. He expressed dismay that the attorney general’s office did not forward the newer claims to the archdiocese for investigation, as it did during the five-year investigation.

“We thought we had that relationship with the attorney general, so we’re disappointed to hear this for the first time,” Cupich said.

He spoke to The Associated Press during one of his regular visits to the Vatican, where he sits on church committees and serves as a close adviser to Pope Francis.

In the report, investigators found that more than 450 Catholic priests in six dioceses in Illinois had sexually abused nearly 2,000 children since 1950, making it clear the problem is far worse than the hierarchy acknowledged in 2018 when the state’s review began. The Archdiocese of Chicago, the third largest in the United States, reported 68 abusive priests in 2018. During the investigation, he added more names, and by Tuesday, 150 names were added to the list of credibly accused priests.

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Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s report found an additional 125 abusers in the archdiocese, many of them priests, whose cases were not necessarily handled by the archdiocese, but by their religious orders. There was also the possibility that the victims went directly to the attorney general’s investigators, bypassing the church altogether to file a report.

Cupich said he was happy to add the names to his list, but needed information on how Raoul’s detectives substantiated the allegations. When asked why it is not enough for the church to accept the cases that the attorney general’s office supported, Cupich said the archdiocese just needs to understand the process.

“I can assure the public: if these cases are substantiated and we receive information about how it happened, we will put them on our website,” he said in the courtyard of the Pontifical North American College. , the American seminary in Rome where Cupich stays when he is in the city on Vatican business.

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Cupich acknowledged that the report reveals a persistent, structural problem in the Catholic Church’s handling of abuse, with religious orders such as the Jesuits, Franciscans, Oblates and Marists often escaping scrutiny and accountability because they, and not the the diocese management maintains the staff. files. Cupich agreed that the Holy See can and should do more to harmonize religious orders.

“Should more direction be given from the central office of the church to the monastic orders? I would support that,” he said. “I want to make sure we give it our all because I can tell you, when we do that and a survivor sees it, it brings healing. That’s why I do it.”

Cupich said he would be willing to refuse to allow priests of inappropriate orders to work in his archdiocese, as suggested by the report, although he said he would “use the carrot rather than the stick because we need these religious orders.”

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However, Cupich was more defensive about another recommendation of the report. Raoul’s investigators have called for an independent mediation and compensation process for the victims, similar to what has been established by the archdiocese of Los Angeles and New York. The report argues that the third-party process “provides victims with a confidential, non-controversial place outside the diocese’s control where they can be heard and receive financial compensation for their trauma.”

Cupich said he does not want to outsource the compensation process because it would deprive the church of pastoral care for victims. He said he would continue the process he had been using for years.

“My concern with contracting this out to a separate third party is that we’re turning ourselves into a business, not a church,” he said.


Teresa Crawford contributed from Chicago.