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Cupich and Wuerl Collaborated on Alternative Sex Abuse Proposal

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington collaborated extensively on a recently proposed policy for handling abuse allegations against bishops, CNA has learned.

Cupich submitted the plan Tuesday to leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference, proffering it as an alternative to a proposal that had been devised by conference officials and staffers.

The conference’s proposed plan would have established an independent lay-led commission to investigate allegations against bishops. The Cupich-Wuerl plan would instead send allegations against bishops to be investigated by their metropolitan archbishops, along with archdiocesan review boards. Metropolitans themselves would be investigated by their senior suffragan bishops.

Sources in Rome and Washington, DC told CNA that Wuerl and Cupich worked together on their alternative plan for weeks, and presented it to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops before the U.S. bishops’ conference assembly in Baltimore. Cupich and Wuerl are both members of the Congregation for Bishops.

The Cupich-Wuerl plan was submitted to the U.S. bishops even after a Vatican directive was issued Monday barring U.S. bishops from voting on any abuse-related measures. The Vatican suspended USCCB policy-making on sexual abuse until after a February meeting involving the heads of bishops’ conferences from around the world.

An official at the Congregation for Bishops told CNA on Thursday that the substance of the plan presented by Cupich at the Baltimore meeting is known in the congregation as “Wuerl’s plan.” The official would not confirm whether the congregation had received an advance copy of the document.

Senior chancery officials in Washington described the plan presented Tuesday as a collaborative effort by the cardinals, telling CNA that Wuerl and Cupich first informed the Congregation for Bishops several weeks ago about their idea for the “metropolitan model” to handle complaints against a bishop, and suggested they had continued to discuss the plan with Congregation officials since that time.

“It was a mutual effort,” one Archdiocese of Washington official told CNA.

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