CHICAGO (CBS) — A “catalogue of horrors.” Those are the words Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich used Friday to describe a bombshell grand jury report detailing decades of sex abuse committed by more than 300 “predator priests” in Pennsylvania.
The report, released Tuesday, outlines the accounts of more than 1,000 children abused over seven decades across six dioceses in Pennsylvania.
“Anger, shock, grief, shame. 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,” Cupich wrote in a letter to members of the Catholic Church in the Chicago area. “This catalogue of horrors comes on the heels of news accounts of deeply disturbing sexual-abuse and harassment allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who recently resigned from the College of Cardinals.”
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McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, resigned last month, amid allegations he sexually abused children and adults for decades. He reportedly is the first cardinal to step down from the College of Cardinals due to sexual abuse allegations.
Cupich said Catholic faithful are right to question how such sexual abuse can keep happening in their church, why bishops haven’t addressed the scandals sooner, and whether they can trust the church will do the right thing now.
“Sorrow, disgust, outrage — these are righteous feelings, 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,” Cupich wrote.
Praising both the news media for bringing the sexual abuse scandal to light, and the survivors for coming forward despite their pain and suffering, the cardinal urged anyone who might have been sexually abused by a member of the clergy in the Chicago area to come forward.
Cupich said the head of the College of Bishops has announced the conference will launch a thorough investigation of the allegations against McCarrick, come up with new ways for people to file complaints against bishops, and establish procedures to make it easier to fairly and quickly resolve those complaints.
“Of course, no set of procedures is perfect. As the grand jury report illustrates, they are subject to the strengths and weaknesses of those entrusted to carry them out,” he wrote. “Closed systems always tend toward self-protection; it is only when we create systems of accountability that we let in purifying light. That’s what our practices are designed to do. They exist because we as a church have a grave responsibility to ensure the safety of our people.”
The cardinal stated victims can contact the Chicago Archdiocese’s Office of Protection of Children and Youth at 800-994-6200, or protect.archchicago.org.
Read the cardinal’s full letter below: