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CHICAGO (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholics are renewing calls for Cdl. Blase Cupich to resign after reports reveal he knew about sexual predators living in his former diocese of Spokane and failed to act.
On Dec. 17, Reveal News reported that at least 20 credibly accused Jesuit priests were sent to live at Cardinal Bea House near the campus of Gonzaga University, in the diocese of Spokane, Washington.
The scandal led to the abrupt resignations of two Gonzaga administrators four days later — Vice Presidents Frank Case and Pat Lee.
Now Catholics are calling on Cdl. Cupich of Chicago, who served as bishop of Spokane from 2010–2015 and was aware of the presence of the predator priests, also to step down for his inaction.
Over the course of more than 30 years, abusive priests were moved to Bea House, and neither police, Gonzaga University nor the public were informed by the Jesuits of their presence. The Spokane Police Department confirmed it never received any reports about the sexual predators from the Jesuit order or from Gonzaga.
"Safety plans" put together by the Jesuits to restrict abusive clergy's movements were routinely ignored. For example, although Fr. John Whitney, Jesuit provincial for the Oregon Province at the time, ordered Fr. James Poole, a notorious abuser, not to have unsupervised contact with minors or to meet alone with women, Reveal News reports that "Poole moved freely throughout campus and, at least on one occasion, met alone with a female student."
Depositions from a lawsuit reveal that Poole attended university basketball games and often went to the campus library, once even meeting alone with a female student for an interview at Bea House.
"We love being right in the middle of campus," said Fr. Joseph Obersinner — another Jesuit accused of molesting a minor — to Gonzaga's student newspaper. "It's a blessing to see the active energy and happiness of youth every day."
Cardinal Cupich became aware of the living arrangments at Bea House in 2011. He failed to inform law enforcement, Gonzaga or the public of the presence of sexual predators.
In response to Church Militant's query, archdiocesan communications director Anne Maselli confirmed Cupich knew of the accused clergy living at Cardinal Bea House.
As he prepared to submit data for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops audit in the spring of 2011, that is, his first audit report there, the Jesuit provincial at the time informed then-Bishop Cupich that since the early 2000s, men with substantiated allegations of abuse had been living at the Bea retirement home under a safety plan created by Praesidium, Inc., and that among the safety plan's provisions was that no man under a safety plan was to leave the home unaccompanied. These men also did not have faculties to minister as priests. Praesidium audited compliance with the plan annually, and each year certified that the province was in compliance. Then-Bishop Cupich passed on this information from the provincial to the diocese's safe environment office for inclusion in the annual audit.
Maselli confirmed that the diocese did use the Bea House on occasion for meetings, and "it is possible that then-Bishop Cupich may have encountered some of these men, but he has no recollection of doing so and can affirm that he never met with any of them in a formal way."
Information about the accused Jesuits was not given to the current bishop of Spokane, Thomas Daly, whose diocese issued a statement making clear Daly was not privy to the information given to his predecessor Cupich.
"[T]he Jesuit Provincial, Father Patrick Lee, informed then-Bishop Blase Cupich that seven priests with safety plans in place were living at Bea House," the Dec. 21 statement reads. "Bishop Thomas Daly — who was installed in 2015 — was not informed by the Jesuits or Gonzaga University that these men were living at Cardinal Bea House."
Complicit Clergy, a site devoted to exposing sex abuse cover-up, published an article titled "Two Gonzaga Admins Resign — So Why Not Cupich?" which links to a petition urging that the Chicago cardinal resign for a number of reasons:
- You and other IL bishops have been accused by the IL Attorney General of withholding the names of least 500 priests accused of sexual abuse;
- As Chairman of the USCCB Committee on the Protection for Children and Young People, many cases of clergy sexual abuse took place which are just now coming to light;
- Your appointment to Cardinal and Archbishop of Chicago was largely due to the now disgraced Theodore McCarrick;
- You blame the abuse crisis on "clericalism," evading the issue of homosexuality;
- In an interview with NBC, you stated the Pope has "got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants";
- You later repeated this claim while addressing a group of seminarians; and
- You forced Fr. Paul Kalchik into hiding by claiming he needs mental health treatment. These facts demonstrate a pattern of negligence and a lack of respect for faithful Catholics in your charge.
A Church Militant petition demanding Cupich's resignation garnered 25,000 signatures and was submitted to the papal nuncio in November.
Since news broke of the scandal at Gonzaga, the Jesuits West Province has promised no clergy accused of molesting a minor will be assigned to live at Gonzaga.
"Jesuits West guarantees that no Jesuit with a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is currently or will ever be knowingly assigned to Gonzaga University or the Jesuit community on its campus, nor to any Jesuit work in the Province," reads their Dec. 19 statement.
Priests who abuse adults, however, are not addressed in the statement, leaving the possibility that clergy who have sexually assaulted adults may still reside at Bea House.