After Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich caught heat in August for making remarks regarded as insensitive about the clergy sex abuse crisis, he took the unusual step of ordering Chicago-area Catholic priests to read a prepared statement during weekend masses defending him and insisting his comments had been twisted by the media.
With church officials again under fire — this time for a withering report from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan that found the Catholic church in Illinois received hundreds more accusations of priests molesting kids than was previously known — Cupich has again sought to steer messaging from his priests on the topic.
Just before Christmas, one of Cupich’s auxiliary bishops, Ronald Hicks, distributed a letter to priests suggesting ways to address the Madigan report and the overall sex abuse scandal during holiday masses. The letter suggests language the priests could use that acknowledges the church’s failures but also pushes back against some of Madigan’s findings.
The letter, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, also provides “talking points” priests can use when discussing the crisis with friends, family and parishioners over the holidays.
“As you know best the pastoral concerns and needs of your community, please feel free to share the following information in any way you deem appropriate,” Hicks wrote. “During this weekend, and perhaps during the Christmas liturgies, people will likely turn to you for guidance and understanding.
“We know that many parishioners will expect our parishes to address the attorney general report directly at mass. At the same time, we know many of you have already addressed this issue since this summer, and our Christmas masses will have many people, including many children, who may not be at mass that often.”
Like Cupich’s mandatory messaging from the pulpit in the summer, Hicks’ letter didn’t sit well with some clerics, even though it wasn’t as heavy handed. One Chicago-area priest who asked not to be named bristled over the content of the letter.
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