November 19, 2018
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago speaks Nov. 12 during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (Credit: CNS.)
Cardinal Blase Cupich is firing back against claims that he sought to advance an alternative proposal for bishop accountability ahead of last week’s meeting in Baltimore, in place of the plan put forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“The allegation is false,” the archbishop of Chicago told Crux on Sunday, in response to a Catholic News Agency (CNA) report Friday that he and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington collaborated on a separate proposal.
“At no time prior to the Baltimore meeting did the two of us collaborate in developing, nor even talk about, an alternative plan,” he said.
At the start of last week’s meeting of U.S. bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, made the surprise announcement that the Vatican had requested a delay on voting until after a February summit in Rome where Pope Francis will convene the head of every bishops’ conference around the world to confront the global sex abuse crisis.
On the table was a proposal for new standards of conduct for bishops, as well as the establishment of a new lay commission that would investigate claims against bishops.
While no votes were taken in Baltimore, the bishops continued in open discussion on both Tuesday and Wednesday in which another proposal emerged that would utilize an independent third-party agency, which would receive allegations, report them to civil authorities as applicable, and then inform both the chair of the lay dominated independent review board of the metropolitan bishop and the metropolitan.
In the case of an allegation against a metropolitan bishop, a third-party agency would report to the Review Board Chair of the senior suffragan bishop and the senior suffragan.
Cupich, who championed the proposal and submitted a written version of it to USCCB officials, said it “provides a response at a more local rather than national level, which is in keeping with the Church’s pastoral responsibilities to care for those who have been injured. It also gets rid of the opt-in provision [of the original USCCB proposal] by making the cooperation of the accused bishop obligatory.”
He also said that “from the outset, there is lay involvement and visibility,” that would serve as a simultaneous check on the metropolitan responsible for investigating the bishop in question.
While CNA had reported that Wuerl and Cupich collaborated on the proposal, which, according to their account, was known in Rome as the “Wuerl plan,” both Cupich and a representative for Wuerl deny that any such advance cooperation took place.
On Sunday, a spokesman for the archdiocese of Washington said that while Wuerl had discussed, in general terms, a similar proposal earlier this summer, nothing was ever formalized, presented, or discussed with anyone.
Both Wuerl and Cupich are members of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, whose prefect, Cardinal Marc Oullet, sent a letter to DiNardo last Sunday via the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Christophe Pierre, requesting the delay.
Cupich told Crux that upon arrival in Baltimore, and hearing the news of the delay in voting, he consulted with numerous bishops on the plan that he eventually submitted.
Cupich told Crux he had not spoken to Pope Francis nor any member of the Roman dicastries about the proposal put forward last week, he believed it is important for Catholics to know the current status of the proposed reform.