Pope Francis named Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich to the organizing committee of the Vatican's unprecedented meeting on the sexual abuse of minors in the church.
Cupich is the only American selected for the committee of four total, including: Archbishop Charles Scicluna, of Malta, Rev. Hans Zellner, of Germany, and Cardinal Oswald Gracias, of Mumbai.
The summit is slated to take place from Feb. 21 to 24 at the Vatican, with the heads of all of the bishops’ conferences around the world.
At the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore earlier this month, the Vatican intervened just as the bishops were expected to implement new, stricter guidelines on conduct and reporting. The Pope asked them to wait until after the February meeting, postponing any reforms until March.
US Bishops Meet in Baltimore
The meeting and anticipated reforms come after a summer of widespread revelations of priest abuse and allegations that bishops looked the other way.
A Pennsylvania Grand Jury released a report in August detailing claims that more than 300 priests had abused 1,000 victims for more than 70 years. Allegations have also surfaced that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had abused a minor and seminarians — dating back 50 years — leaving questions as to whether the Vatican was aware when it promoted the former Washington D.C. Cardinal.
At the Baltimore meeting, the bishops spoke about the potential of a new review board to examine complaints.
Cupich suggested two review boards, one to examine the abuse of minors, the other for adult misconduct.
"In some of the cases with adults involving clerics, it could be consensual sex, anonymous, but also involve adult pornography," Cupich said.
The group delayed a binding vote on a new code of conduct, in line with the Vatican's request, but the bishops said they want Catholics to know they hear the people in the pews calling for change.
"In listening to our priests and listening to our people, they are clearly upset and many of them are very, very angry," Rev. George V. Murry said, "but they're also very hopeful. And the hope is rooted in the fact that we have an opportunity to take action. Concrete, tangible action."
"The lack of trust that people have ... they're looking for us to take steps that will say that we understand the problem and we're willing to do something about it," Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield said.
The U.S. Bishops' own advisory council is calling for a top-to-bottom study of the clergy abuse crisis.
"More should be expected of our bishops, not less," retired Col. Anita Raines of the National Advisory Council said.
The delay in implementing new rules puts more pressure on the February meeting, when global leaders will flock to Rome for an even in which it's now clear Cupich will play a key role.
"It is clear that the Holy See is taking seriously the abuse crisis in the Church, seeing it as a watershed moment not just for the church in this country but around the world, in putting so much emphasis on the February meeting," Cardinal Blase Cupich said at the conference on Nov. 12.
"We need, as a conference, as brother bishops, to take up this issue for the good of the church in this country, without delay. We can benefit from the discussions that happen in February and in fact, may find some new insights that we had not thought of. But we need to act soon, without delay," he continued.
"If the February conference doesn't produce," Cardinal Joseph Tobin said, "well then we have a very serious problem between our conference and the folks in Rome."