The Catholic Church is reeling after a Vatican report on sex abuse was released Tuesday.
The report reveals mistakes and cover ups allowed for the abuse.
Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich calls it a watershed moment.
The report is almost too difficult to read — 449 pages documenting assaults on innocent victims and protection of the adults who carried out the abuse.
Church sex abuse victims stood in Rome telling the Pope, cardinals and bishops about their abuse. The sex abuse summit was just the beginning for the Catholic Church. An investigation of one of the most powerful U.S. bishops and a disgraced former U.S. cardinal was occurring at the same time.
Now the final report.
It is a revelation church leadership hopes will pull the curtain back on what were systemic problems to make way for healing for abuse victims and prevention of these horrors from ever happening again.
“From very casual touching that was inappropriate and boundary crossing, all the way to some of the most graphic kinds of abuse that can be done,” Cupich said. “So it was important for the victims of the abuse to be heard in this report.”
Theodore McCarrick is accused of sexually abusing seminarians for decades and inappropriately touching minors. Pope John Paul II, now a saint, believed McCarrick’s denials.
“He did make a mistake,” Cupich said.
Some say Pope John Pauls’ Polish upbringing made him susceptible to believing bishops could be falsely accused.
But the report revelations get worse and include that church leaders covered up for McCarrick, one for their own.
“The Holy See asked bishops point blank questions m, and they withheld information that they had,” Cupich said. “So yes, that kind of a responsibility prolonged this tragedy.”
The reports of abuse made their way through three papacies. Pope Benedict sanctioned McCarrick but did not remove him. Pope Francis is said to have believed the matter was handled.
Anne Barrett Doyle with BishopAccountability.org calls the report “remarkable.”
“There is more substance than we’ve seen ever in a church report. It’s actually self-incriminating, but its great failure is that it lets Pope Francis completely off the hook,” Doyle said. “McCarrick was not someone who had been put out to pasture. He was an active and pre-eminent cardinal. He was effectively representing the Holy See, running the Holy See. Didn’t the pope wonder if those rumors had substance?”
In the final analysis, Cupich praises the tenacity and transparency of Pope Francis.
“It’s difficult reading. But people can take bad news,” he said. “They just can’t take a lie.”
Honesty is the commitment for the future.
“Responsibility, accountability and transparency,” Cupich said.
When it comes to abuse accusations in Chicago, Cupich has a zero tolerance policy. All accused priests are removed from ministry pending an investigation.
“If it’s found to be unfounded then we return him to ministry,” he said. “If not, we remove him from ministry permanently.”
One of many policies Cupich hopes will put a new face on the church for the future from its roots in Rome to individual parishes locally.
“It’s a cleansing,” he said. “But the pope also is doing this cleansing. Not just in this level of abuse, but in the way health finances are done and how people are treated by clergy. … We have to be supportive of the pope now and look for the ways he is going to clean house.”
Cupich said the most important thing is to focus on victims in the face of an accusation. Thinking about the child first will result in decisions that are honest and true.