Cardinal says 'sorrow, disgust, rage' are 'righteous' reactions to abuse

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn


CHICAGO (CNS) — “Sorrow,
disgust, outrage — these are righteous feelings” for all to have in reaction
to the latest abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich
said in an Aug. 17 statement.

These are “the stirrings
of the conscience of a people scandalized by the terrible reality that too many
of the men who promised to protect their children, and strengthen their faith,
have been responsible for wounding both,” he said.

His comments came in
reaction to the Pennsylvania attorney general’s Aug. 14 release of a grand jury
report detailing seven decades of child sex abuse claims in six Pennsylvania
dioceses. Some weeks before that were the allegations against Archbishop Theodore
E. McCarrick that he abused a minor more than 47 years ago and was sexually inappropriate
with seminarians.

“Anger, shock, grief,
shame,” said Cardinal Cupich, who was chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee
on the Protection of Children and Young People 2008 to 2011 when he was bishop of
Rapid City, South Dakota. “What other words can we summon to describe the
experience of learning about the devastating revelations of sexual abuse — and
the failures of bishops to safeguard the children entrusted to their care.”

He described the grand
jury report as a “catalog of horrors” that came on “the heels of news accounts
of deeply disturbing sexual abuse and harassment allegations” against McCarrick.

“And yet whatever words
we may use to describe the anguish of reading about these heinous acts, they
can never capture the reality of suffering endured by victims of sexual abuse,
suffering compounded by the woeful responses of bishops who failed to protect
the people they were ordained to serve.”

He quoted a written
Vatican statement issued Aug. 16 by Greg Burke, head of the Vatican press
office, in a written statement: “The church must learn hard lessons from its
past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who
permitted abuse to occur.”

“I know that many of you are
asking: How could this be happening again?” Cardinal Cupich continued. “Didn’t
the U.S. bishops address this crisis sixteen years ago when they met in Dallas?
What are they doing now, and why should we trust that this time they will do
the right thing? These are precisely the questions that ought to be asked.”

As a former chair of the child
protection committee, “I have asked them myself.”

He credited the “admirable
work” of many in the news media who played “an essential role in bringing this
crisis into the light.”

“Now, we have been
made to face these scandals first and foremost by the courage of
victim-survivors — the men and women who found the strength, even when doing
so meant suffering again unimaginable pain, to come forward and seek justice
from an institution that grievously failed them,” the cardinal said.

He reviewed the
statement made Aug. 16 by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston as
president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Cardinal DiNardo announced
three key goals and a comprehensive plan to address the “moral
catastrophe” of the scandal He said the “substantial involvement of
the laity” from law enforcement, psychology and other disciplines will be
essential to this process.

goals are: A “full investigation” into “the questions
surrounding” Archbishop McCarrick; the opening of new and confidential
channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and advocacy for more
effective resolution of future complaints. Three criteria, he said, will be
followed: proper independence, sufficient authority and substantial leadership
by laity.”

Cupich said he and his brother bishops “must resolve
to face our failures and hold each other accountable.”

“We must resolve to be
clear-eyed about what we have done, what we have failed to do and what remains
to be done,” the cardinal said. “We must resolve to live in the light of
humility, of repentance, of honesty — the light of Christ. As your bishop, I
pledge to continue holding firm to that resolve. And I ask for you to pray for
all victims of abuse.”

In Philadelphia,
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput addressed the release of the grand jury report in his
week column posted Aug. 17.

He said it had been “an
ugly week: first for the survivors of sex abuse; second, for Catholics across
the state; third, for the wider public. For many, rage is the emotion of
choice. The latest grand jury report is a bitterly painful text.

“But rage risks wounding
the innocent along with the guilty, and it rarely accomplishes anything good,”
he said.

He recalled the anger
Philadelphians felt toward the archdiocese after the 2005 and 2011 grand jury
reports, calling it “well placed and justified.”

“We’ve worked hard to
remember the lessons of that time. Seven years later, we are keenly aware of
the evil that sexual abuse victims have suffered. We understand our obligation,
and we’re sincerely committed, to help survivors heal,” Archbishop Chaput said.

“We’ve worked hard to
ensure the safety of children and families in church-related environments. In
that task, the guidance and counsel of laypeople — including former law
enforcement officials and professionals in assisting abuse survivors — have
been especially valuable.”

He added: “We know that
rebuilding the trust of our people and the morale of our good priests can only
be accomplished with a record of doing the right thing over time. The roughly
100,000 laypeople and clergy we’ve trained in recent years to recognize and
report the signs of sexual abuse are part of that effort.

Archbishop Chaput said that as a
member of the U.S. bishops’ Executive Committee, “I support Cardinal DiNardo’s
leadership on these difficult issues,” and he included in his column the full
text of the cardinal’s Aug. 16 letter.

In the Midwest, Archbishop
Michael O. Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa, echoed the same strong sentiments as Cardinal
Cupich and Archbishop Chaput.

“Overwhelmed. Disheartened.
Ashamed. And at a loss as to an adequate response,” he said in an Aug. 13
statement. “Those are some of my reactions to recent accounts of ‘ sexual abuse
of children, young people, and vulnerable adults, perpetrated by the likes of
team doctors, coaches, and clergy, here in the USA and elsewhere … the
failure of people in charge, especially bishops, to hear accusers, to act on
allegations, and to remove those who are predators from access to potential

He also said he felt the
need “to state that the vast majority is
good and faithful, and does so much to help us on the way to heaven. Thanks be
to God. Moreover, I feel the need to state that there is nothing inherent in an
all-male clergy, or mandatory celibacy, or diocesan priests living alone that
is the cause of this problem.”

He said he looked forward to the bishops full discussion on
the abuse crisis at their November meeting and he urged laypeople “to be a
partner in this effort” prevent abuse and create safe environments.

He also listed other
actions including prayer for conversion ‘ penance to
make amends for past sins. Affirmation of church teaching “about the human
person, sexuality, marriage and family” and being “vigilant.”

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Editor’s Note: The full of these
statements can be found online: Cardinal Cupich,;
Archbishop Chaput,; and Bishop Jackels,

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