VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - The pope has named Chicago's Cdl. Blase Cupich to the organizing committee for February's synod on prevention of abuse of minors. Notably, Boston's Cdl. Sean O'Malley, the pope's chief adviser on sex abuse, has been left off.
In a statement Friday, the Vatican announced it was appointing the controversial Chicago cardinal to the committee, along with Bombay's Cdl. Oswald Gracias, Malta's Abp. Charles Scicluna and Fr. Hans Zollner, S.J., a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Cupich emerged as the clear ringleader of a faction obstructing sex abuse reform during the U.S. bishops' annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland last week. Working in concert with Cdl. Donald Wuerl, who resigned in disgrace as archbishop of Washington, D.C. in October for his role in protecting predator clergy, Cupich backed the Vatican's surprise move last week to block American bishops from voting on sex abuse reform, making essentially moot the reason for the fall meeting.
Cupich also supported the papal nuncio's announcement — another surprise to U.S. bishops — that there would be no lay involvement in the investigation of Abp. Theodore McCarrick. Instead, Cupich — in collaboration with Wuerl — presented an alternative proposal that placed responsibility for the investigation in the hands of the bishops themselves. Wuerl had been roundly mocked in August for proposing that the bishops investigate themselves, reversed course after backlash, only to present the same model at the Baltimore meeting.
O'Malley, who has significantly been left off of the organizing committee for the February synod, was among the strongest voices calling for lay participation.
"All the bishops that I've spoken with are convinced we need the help of the lay people," he told The Boston Globe in early November. "We need our [civilian] review boards. We need our experts. We need our archdiocesan pastoral councils to help us to be able to make good decisions."
At the Baltimore meeting of bishops, O'Malley also called for a change in the definition of "vulnerable adults" (defined as adults who are the functional equivalent of minors, owing to mental, physical or psychological handicap) to include any adult victims of abuse — an idea quickly shot down by Cupich, who said that "in some of the cases with adults ... involving clerics, it could be consensual sex."
"There's a whole different set of circumstances that need to come into play here," he objected.
Adult seminarians were the primary victims of McCarrick's sexual predation. To date, the bishops have developed no clear guidelines on how to punish prelates who engage in such misconduct, focusing only on abuse of those under age 18. A number of laity have called for the Dallas Charter to be revised to include protection of adults.
In January, O'Malley was openly critical of the pope's response to abuse victims in Chile. The pope had accused sex abuse survivors of spreading "calumny" when they brought claims against Bp. Juan Barros, whom Pope Francis had appointed to the diocese of Osorno.
Calling his comments a "source of great pain," O'Malley said, "Words that convey the message 'if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed' abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile."
Pope Francis later apologized for his remarks in what some called the greatest crisis of his pontificate.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, another member of the organizing committee for the February synod, has been a loud proponent of the LGBT agenda, criticizing the Church's language on homosexuality as "judgmental" and claiming active gay couples "should also be accepted" in the Church.