Ahead of abuse summit at Vatican, Cupich confident meeting will result in plan to protect children

CHICAGO — Bishops from all over the world are heading to the Vatican next week for an abuse summit. Pope Francis gave Cardinal Blase Cupich the responsibility of planning the gathering.

This is the first time a pontiff has called all the presidents of the world’s bishops' conferences together. With nearly 200 church leaders converging on the Vatican, no one will be allowed to hide from this crisis.

Cupich recently spoke to WGN’s Dina Bair about the critical issue, which has haunted the catholic church for decades.

The Holy Father warned Catholics to keep their expectations low, but he said at the end of this week-long meeting, he is confident there will be a plan in place to protect children from sex abuse in the church.

“It will be very clear to bishops when they come to this, that when they go home, they have some homework to do,” he said.

Every bishop who comes to the summit claims ownership for this very difficult moment and takes action in a way that makes every bishop in the world responsible for the care of children as a priority.

“There will be a framework of procedures that will be given to bishops,” Cupich said. “Not only for the handling of cases of abuse by clergy, but also the consequences for bishops when they mishandle it or themselves misbehave.”

The abuse and negligence in taking action was revealed yet again in the church last year when Cardinal Theodore Mcarrick was defrocked after what some called systemic cover ups. Since the charter was adopted in 2002, church leaders were supposed to hand over all allegations to law enforcement.

Cardinal Cupich said that is the only way to handle accusations.

“You have to turn this over to the authorities, let them investigate it, which we do, and then when they do that we do our own investigation and follow our own process,” he said.

That point will be driven home, as will the pain from victims.

“The Holy Father asked bishops who come to this meeting to do one thing. He didn’t give them documents to read, he didn’t give them drafts of procedures to study, didn’t give them stats, he just asked them to visit with victim survivors because he wanted their hearts to be touched and to be transformed as his has been,” Cupich said.

Victim survivors will be woven into the fabric of the meeting personalizing the scandal that has gripped the church and its members. Church leaders said what was once whispered or pushed aside will now be out in the open.

“The three days are organized on three themes — responsibility accountability and transparency,” Cupich said. “And each of those will feature victim survivors to come forward but also then the bishops will break into small groups to discuss what they have heard, and they are able to ask questions.”

The Holy father will be there every day he has committed he has blocked off his whole time to be a part of this meeting.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said they've heard these promises before. SNAP is already criticizing the pope for not doing more, the cardinal for his role in the meeting and the gathering itself saying one week is not enough. But the cardinal admits, this evil went on for years and will take years to correct. He has optimism about progress and says accepting and talking about the problem is the first step.

WGN’s Dina Bair will be covering the meeting at the Vatican and have updates.

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