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Cardinal Cupich at The University of Chicago Institute of Politics Nov. 6, 2017. Facebook / University of Chicago IOP

August 31, 2018 ( – Cardinal Blase Cupich is on the defensive after stating in a recent interview that Pope Francis has a “bigger agenda” than dealing with accusations that he and other Vatican officials covered up ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s record of sexual abuse.

In an interview with Chicago’s NBC 5 on Monday, Cupich argued that it would be “inappropriate” for the pope to answer questions about the matter, and that he needs to focus on other issues such as immigration and the environment. Cupich characterized the accusations made Saturday against the pope by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò as a “rabbit hole.”

“For the Holy Father, I think to get into each and every one of those aspects, in some way is inappropriate and secondly, the pope has a bigger agenda,” Cupich told the television station. “He’s gotta get on with other things of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the Church. We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.”

Cupich made the remarks in response to the question: “Does the pope need to tell Catholics exactly what he knew about Cardinal McCarrick and when he first knew it?”

Pope Francis has refused to answer questions from the media about Archbishop Viganò’s statement, which holds that Viganò mentioned McCarrick’s record of sex abuse to Pope Francis twice in 2013, and that Francis’ response indicated he already knew.

After the quote was circulated on the internet by outraged Catholics, Cupich issued a statement claiming that the interview had been edited to give a “false impression” about what he was saying, a claim that the station denied.

“An NBC Chicago TV report that aired Monday night was edited in such a way that gave the false impression that Pope Francis and I consider the protection of children to be less important than other issues, such as the environment or immigration. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Cupich declared Wednesday in a press release.

NBC 5 responded by placing more extensive segments of the interview on its website for the public to see, and rejected Cupich’s claim of a “false impression.”  

“We believe our story to be accurate in that Cardinal Cupich was referring to the memo about sexual abuse allegations in question,” the station said.

Learn about St. Peter Damian’s struggle against an epidemic of sodomy and corruption among the clergy of the eleventh century, a story with great relevance for the Catholic Church today. Click here.

Francis’ refusal to respond was ‘exactly the kind of answer that was needed,’ says Cupich

“I think that the Holy Father on the airplane had exactly the kind of answer that was needed,” said the cardinal. “He was asked about the letter of the Archbishop Viganò. He said he read it. He encouraged the media to read it carefully and to come to their own conclusion, and that he would not have any final statement, any other statement on it. I think what he was signaling is two things. The first is that you have to see whether or not these remarks stand up to scrutiny.”

“There are so many things in there that he [Viganò] says about so many people that it’s impossible to try to get into the weeds on this,” added Cupich, “and he [Pope Francis] trusts the media to use their skills, their expertise, and, he said, their maturity to explore these questions.”

Later in the interview, Cupich returned to the idea that the pope didn’t need to occupy himself with child sex abuse issues in the American Church.

“Let’s be clear. I think it’s important right now, in view of the letter that was issued today by the president of our conference, that this is not on the pope’s plate to fix. This is on us,” said Cupich.

“We, as the bishops’ conference of the United States, obviously need to look at what went wrong here and hold each other accountable. So before we give the pope another task to do, let’s look at what we’re supposed to do. What’s on our agenda to fix this? That’s where the failure is.”

Issue of homosexuals in the clergy are a ‘diversion from the real issue,’ Cupich holds

Cupich continued his line of denying that the Church’s sex abuse crisis is related to a crisis of homosexuality in the priesthood.

“But let’s also be clear that people who want to make this about sex, in terms of homosexuality and all the rest of it, are a diversion from the real issue that we need to attack in the life of the Church, and that is that there are some people who believe that they are both privileged and protected,” he said, adding, “That wall has to come down.”

Cupich’s affirmations are in line with his consistently pro-gay position, which includes the claim that the molestation of thousands of adolescent males by Catholic priests is unrelated to homosexuality in the clergy. They were made in apparent response to Archbishop Viganò, who stated on Saturday: “Regarding Cupich, one cannot fail to note his ostentatious arrogance, and the insolence with which he denies the evidence that is now obvious to all: that 80% of the abuses found were committed against young adults by homosexuals who were in a relationship of authority over their victims.”

‘Small group of insurgents’ rejects Francis agenda, doesn’t like him because he’s ‘Latino’

“I would say, I would say not a civil war. There’s a small group of insurgents, who have not liked Pope Francis from the very beginning,” said Cupich.

“They don’t like the fact that he’s calling for more lay involvement. They don’t like the fact that he is calling for a synodal Church, where we get the advice of people. They don’t like that he’s talking about the environment or the poor or the migrants or that the death penalty is something that we should outlaw. They don’t like the fact that he is saying that economies kill. There are people who don’t like that message,” he claimed.

“And so there’s an insurgency of people who don’t like that. And, quite frankly, they also don’t like him because he’s a Latino and that he is bringing Latino culture into the life of the Church, which we have been enriched by and I think that that’s part of all of this too.”

Popes John Paul II and Benedict didn’t act against McCarrick, but Francis did, Cupich claims

Cupich contradicted claims by Viganò claiming that Pope Benedict acted to discipline McCarrick, which were confirmed to the National Catholic Register by an anonymous source with access to Benedict. According to Cupich, Pope Benedict did not act, while Francis did. He also implies that Francis didn’t know about the McCarrick case until recently.

“My experience with the pope is that as soon as he knows about something, he acts on it. As soon as he’s given evidence about this, he acts on it,” said Cupich.

“Let’s remember the accusation of Archbishop Viganò is that this information was known under the pontificate of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. But who was the one who took action? It was Pope Francis. When Pope Francis received the report from Cardinal Dolan, who did his job in accord with our Charter, he acted right away. So I think that the record shows that whenever there’s actionable information, Pope Francis acts.”

The Catholic News Agency has compiled a complete transcript of the extended interview segments, which can be found here.

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