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Cardinal Blase Cupich

BALTIMORE, Maryland, November 14, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich again grabbed notice from the assembly floor of the U.S. bishops’ semi-annual meeting on the gathering’s second day.

Amid ongoing concerted focus on the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal at the United States Conference of Catholics Bishops (USCCB) Fall General Assembly, Cupich implied a proposed new process of holding bishops accountable was unnecessary and also made a casual acknowledgement of consensual sex between adult clerics.

During the question period following the presentation from National Review Board (NRB) Chair Dr. Francesco Cesareo, Cupich told the body of bishops that examinations of offenses against minors versus adults should be separate.  

“Because in some of the cases with adults … involving clerics, it could be consensual sex,” the cardinal said, “anonymous, but also involve adult pornography.”

“There’s a whole different set of circumstances that need to come into play here,” Cupich added.

The Chicago cardinal is among those endeavoring to fault “clericalism” for the sexual abuse crisis while also working to downplay the element of homosexuality in the priesthood.

The NRB advises the bishops’ Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection and was established by the Charter for Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the bishops in 2002.

The Review Board report was one of several agenda items surrounding the ongoing sex abuse crisis before the full body of U.S. bishops at their fall meeting in Baltimore.

The semi-annual gathering has been closely watched in advance as the abuse scandal has widened in the Church in recent months and Catholics continue to call for answers and accountability from leadership at all levels.

The bishops’ meeting saw controversy on its first day on Monday after USCCB President Daniel DiNardo announced at the gathering’s start that the Holy See had directed the bishops to put off voting on two measures that would pave the way for episcopal accountability in the sex abuse scandal.

The Vatican conveyed the direction to DiNardo via the Congregation for Bishops late Sunday, something the Galveston-Houston cardinal archbishop noted in his announcement.

The bishops were told to hold off on voting on the items until after Pope Francis’ meeting with the national bishops’ conferences worldwide in Rome in February 2019.

The USCCB plan to vote on the two measures – part of an action plan they put forth in September after an August request to Pope Francis to intervene in the Archbishop Theodore McCarrick matter was denied – was the bishops’ conference effectively acting within the bounds that it could, since only the pope can sanction or remove a bishop from office.

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, who is the Bishops’ Communications Committee Chairman, said the announcement of the Holy See’s directive to put off voting on the abuse measures had thrown many of the bishops sideways and was completely unexpected. He acknowledged that it was frustrating.

Cupich, conversely, was ready with a statement soon following the announcement that detailed Cupich’s remarks from the assembly floor before DiNardo had concluded his remarks on the matter.

With the meeting not in open discussion time, Cupich had taken to a microphone before DiNardo finished his announcement, gave praise to the Pope’s abuse crisis response, and suggested the bishops continue discussion on the two measures before taking a non-binding vote determining the conference’s stance on them.

The bishops have opted to discuss the abuse measures outside the realm of action items.

When discussion later came up in the bishops’ meeting Tuesday on the proposed third-party reporting system for receiving complaints of sexual abuse of minors by a bishop and sexual harassment or misconduct with adults by a bishop, Cupich said the bishops had already had a made a commitment to be accountable. 

“I would just want to make sure that everyone recalls that in 2002 we made a Statement of Episcopal Commitment,” he said, and then quoted from the document developed as a response to the bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The Commitment states in part that the bishops will apply the Charter requirements to themselves and also report abuse allegations up the hierarchy system.

“So I think it's important to remember that we have this commitment already in place,” stated Cupich.

He said he didn’t want “to quibble” with the provision, but inferred it was unnecessary to call the bishops once again to that responsibility. Cupich pointed out that New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan had triggered this provision in the case of McCarrick.

“He followed this, he did his job,” Cupich said of Dolan. “And it’s an opportunity for us to remember the commitment we made 16 years ago to apply the requirements of the charter to ourselves.”

“We hear sometimes that we were not included in the Charter,” he added. “Maybe not in the Charter itself, but we committed ourselves to apply the requirements of the Charter to ourselves.”

Cupich made headlines when he told a media outlet in August that Pope Francis has a “bigger agenda” than dealing with accusations that he and other Vatican prelates covered for McCarrick’s alleged serial sexual abuse.