After being named to the Vatican’s task force for the protection of minors against sexual abuse, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago told the Chicago Tribune that Church leaders must remain humble in the process of helping victims and regaining trust.
“We must be humble by accepting what was done in the past and taking the shame that goes with it,” Cupich told the Chicago Tribune March 2.
“There’s never a moment in which we can say we have this all figured out,” he added.
Cupich was the only U.S. cleric to be named to the task force, the mission of which is to assist bishops’ conferences, religious institutes, and societies of apostolic life throughout the world in implementing child protection guidelines and putting in place the requirements of Pope Francis’ 2019 motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi.
The new norms established in the document included placing seminarians and religious who were coerced into sexual activity through the misuse of authority in the same criminal category as minors and vulnerable adults.
The norms also established obligatory reporting for clerics and religious, required that every diocese have a mechanism for reporting abuse, and put the metropolitan archbishop in charge of investigations of accusations against suffragan bishops.
In meetings with bishops at the Vatican last year, Cupich advocated for each episcopal conference, province, or diocese to establish a standard for the investigation of a bishop for potential misconduct or cover-up of abuse. He said that the process of creating these standards should involve both lay experts and the use of a metropolitan archbishop.
Cupich also advocated for compassion toward those reporting abuse, and additional support for them provided by the diocese, such as psychological counseling.
Even before Cupich’s leadership, the Archdiocese of Chicago has been considered one of the leaders on confronting sexual abuse in the Church in the U.S. In 1992, the archdiocese established a hotline for reporting clerical sexual abuse, and has been a leader in reporting abuse cases to civil authorities even before that was the established norm for dioceses.
According to the Tribune, one of the next steps for the Archdiocese of Chicago is improving their response to so-called “boundary violations” – instances of manipulation and crossed boundaries by clergy that may lead to future abuse.
Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ, the president of the Center for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University, is another leader of the Vatican task force. Zollner was in Chicago to give a talk to diocesan priests and then a lecture at DePaul University about the task force and the new guidelines to protect against sex abuse in the Church.
He told the Chicago Tribune that the creation of a Vatican task force on abuse is “unprecedented.”
“This is the first time the (pope) has taken into his own hands the speeding up of the process,” Zollner told the Tribune.
In his lecture, Zollner said the Church must not underestimate the destructive power of abuse, the Tribune reported.
“Sexual abuse is very powerful in its consequences and its outcomes,” Zollner said. “I believe as long as we don’t acknowledge that, we have to live with the burden; we’re not as free as we could be.”
Juan Carlos Cruz, an outspoken advocate for victims of clergy sex abuse who met with the pope in 2018 to discuss his own abuse at the hands of a Chilean priest, told the Tribune that he was glad for the steps that the Church was taking to prevent abuse, and hoped it would maintain transparency on the issue in the years to come.
“There is this big wound that you can’t sweep under the rug, that you have to deal with,” he said. “And if you do things right, confidence will come back — but you have to do things right.”
Cupich added that before the Church talks about rebuilding the trust of its people, it must first focus on the healing of the victims of abuse.
“That will come on their terms, not ours,” Cupich said. “Regaining trust has to begin with a profound sense of responsibility for making sure what happened in the past doesn’t happen again.”