Cardinal Cupich Dragged His Feet on Case of Child Porn Priest

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by Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  March 4, 2019   

Slowness to act compromised investigation

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Chicago's Cdl. Blase Cupich waited nearly a month before removing a seminary rector found in possession of male child porn. He also failed to report the priest immediately to law enforcement — a violation of the Dallas Charter — which gave the offending priest time to get rid of the primary evidence.

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Fr. Octavio Muñoz

Father Octavio Muñoz was arrested in 2016 for possession of child porn after Cook County investigators found hundreds of DVDs and videotapes "that appear to depict minors in sexual penetration" as well as "emails containing stories of sex with children," according to Assistant State's Attorney Guy Lisuzzo at a 2016 bond hearing.

They also found "undergarments of a size intended for children."

Muñoz was rector of the now-defunct Casa Jesus, a seminary for Latin Americans established by the late Cdl. Joseph Bernardin in the late 1980s for the purpose of recruiting homosexual seminarians. 

Father John Lavers, who headed a top-level 2012 investigation at Holy Apostles Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut exposing a homosexual pipeline from South America to East Coast seminaries, confirmed with Church Militant that Bernardin led the vanguard in recruiting and funneling homosexuals from Latin America to Casa Jesus in Chicago.

Cupich quietly shut down the seminary in 2016 after multiple gay scandals, including the regular frequenting of gay bars by seminarians, as well as priests connected to Casa Jesus being accused of sexual misconduct.

"When I was at Casa Jesus, I used to go to gay bars, bring my friends. They didn't say anything," said former seminarian Luis Stalin to NBC Chicago. Stalin said the rule for celibacy was often ignored.

A Chicago priest who spent time at Casa Jesus, and who asked not to be named, spoke with Church Militant and confirmed the rampant homosexual subculture. "The rector knew. Everybody knew," he said.

The incident involving Muñoz was the final scandal that led to the seminary's closure.

They also found 'undergarments of a size intended for children.'

Muñoz helped lead the house of formation for seven years (2009–15), frequently traveling to Latin America — at the archdiocese's expense — to recruit seminarians for the Chicago archdiocese.

Cupich was criticized in 2016 for dragging his feet on the Muñoz investigation, failing to report him immediately to law enforcement, waiting nearly a month before removing him from ministry, and sending him out of state — without informing law enforcement.

 
Cupich's actions drew a sharp rebuke from the judge overseeing Muñoz's case. "Isn't there counseling in the state of Illinois that he could've been afforded?" asked Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil during a court hearing in 2016.

A 2016 bond proffer gave the background on the Muñoz case:

On or about 07/07/2015, an employee of the Archdiocese of Chicago was scheduled to show the new Casa Jesus Rector the apartment. The Archdiocesan employee and new Rector [Fr. Kevin Hays] knocked on the door to the apartment, and when there was no answer, the employee tried the handle but found the door locked. The employee used the master key to enter the apartment. ... The employee also observed a recliner chair with a TV tray and on the TV tray was an open computer, powered on, and it was running. The employee saw that the computer was a black Sony laptop, on which there was displayed a moving image on the screen that appeared to be running from a web cam. The image was of a young boy who had no pubic hair masturbating. Defendant was not present in the apartment at the time. Both the employee and the Rector left the apartment.

According to the court document, Fr. Kevin Hays, current associate pastor at Notre Dame de Chicago, never reported the child porn to the archdiocese. After the employee learned that the incident was never reported, he contacted the archdiocesan Office for the Protection of Children and Youth. When Hays was questioned as to why he failed to tell the archdiocese, he claimed he never saw the porn on the laptop.

Even after the employee reported the child porn, Cupich failed to contact law enforcement, waiting until July 20 — 13 days after the incident — to hire private investigators.

"Nearly two weeks passed between the time child pornography was seen inside the Casa Jesus apartment and when church officials began an investigation," according to ABC7's I-Team report.

That was enough time for Muñoz to get rid of the Sony laptop. Although investigators found a black Sony bag for the laptop at Muñoz's apartment, the laptop itself was gone. Forensic examination of other electronic equipment, however, revealed child erotica and homosexual teen porn. It was only then that investigators contacted Chicago police, which launched its own investigation on July 30.

The Chicago archdiocese issued a statement at the time saying, "Archbishop Blase J. Cupich removed Father Muñoz from ministry and withdrew his faculties, his authority to minister, after the archdiocese learned that the inappropriate material might involve minors."

The statement fails to note, however, that Cupich waited until July 28 — three weeks after the incident — to remove Muñoz, and that he did not contact law enforcement when the incident was first reported.

The statement fails to note, however, that Cupich waited until July 28 — three weeks after the incident — to remove Muñoz, and that he did not contact law enforcement when the incident was first reported.

According to Lisuzzo, after Cupich removed his faculties, Muñoz "was moved by the archdiocese to a location for ... evaluation and business. The Chicago Police Department was not notified of that location." 

An arrest warrant was issued in August 2016, but police could not locate Muñoz, whom Cupich had sent out of state to St. Luke Institute, a notorious priest rehabilitation center in Silver Spring, Maryland. Saint Luke has a long history of scandal, founded by a homosexual who used to show gay porn to clients as part of their treatment. In 2014, CEO Fr. Edward J. Arsenault III was arrested and jailed for embezzling more than $200,000 to use on homosexual lovers.

After waiving extradition, Muñoz was transferred to the custody of Chicago police and charged with felony possession of child porn.

Leader of a Disappointing Vatican Sex Abuse Summit

Cupich was tapped by Pope Francis to be a lead organizer of the recently concluded Vatican sex abuse summit, which critics — on the Left and Right — say accomplished little in the way of genuine reform. 

"The unprecedented Vatican summit on the Catholic Church's sex-abuse crisis took place last week and it's still not clear what, if anything, was accomplished," wrote Michael Pettinger for The Nation.

"Francis offered no detailed plan on how to prevent abuse, or binding rules on how to deal with abusers and cooperate with law enforcement," wrote Ciara Nugent in Time Magazine.

"Vatican's Sex Summit on Clergy Sex Abuse Left Many Survivors Disappointed," read the headline of an NPR report.

Cupich, who answered questions at daily press briefings, was criticized for evading issues and for his lack of transparency.

When asked by CNN's Delia Gallagher how laity can have confidence that the cardinals are being held accountable, Cupich's response amounted to an insistence that laity simply trust them.

And when Ann Thompson of NBC challenged Cupich on his alternate sex abuse proposal — which allows the bishops to investigate themselves — Cupich's response made clear he was sticking to his plan.

Reactions to his response were uniformly negative.

"Excellent question. Lame answer," read one response by "Pat" on Twitter. "The truth is nobody trusts that the Cardinals/Bishops can police themselves. It's unfathomable that this is the best they can do 'believe us now.' Not good enough."

"By choosing Cardinal Cupich to lead the abuse summit, the hierarchy told the laity that nothing will change," wrote Kathy Lewis. "He's a huge part of the problem and giving him such power negates the summit entirely. The laity rejects this summit as another attempt to avoid responsibility for abuse."

"If the 'only thing' Cupich can tell us is that he polices himself, then there must be NO mechanism to hold the hierarchy accountable," wrote Kevin Daley. "Otherwise he'd tell us about it, right? @deliacnn destroyed this whole farce of a meeting with her question."

 

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