In a bizarre interview with a Chicago NBC affiliate, Cardinal Blaise Cupich, head of the Archdiocese of Chicago, suggested recent claims made by a former apostolic nuncio — the Vatican's envoy to the United States — that Pope Francis not only disregarded sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, but promoted McCarrick and sought his counsel, were going down a "rabbit hole."
The Pope, Cupich told NBC, has more important things to attend to than sex abuse scandals, like climate change and immigration.
"The Pope has a bigger agenda," Cardinal Cupich said. "He's got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the church. We're not going to go down a rabbit hole on this."
The so-called "rabbit hole" is a serious one: Pope Francis is accused of ignoring evidence that McCarrick abused seminarians, instead rescinding an order from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that McCarrick be stripped of duties and bound at home, to live a life of "prayer and penance." The report also suggests that Pope Francis is beholden to a network of conspirators, hiding and protecting a number of abusers in the Church's hierarchy.
Cupich is named in the 11-page letter, authored by former Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. Archbishop Viganò claims that McCarrick "lobbied" for his ally, Cupich, to be named to the head of the Chicago Archdiocese — a plum job — and describes Cupich as "ostentatious" and arrogant."
Cupich has, in turn, been vocal to friendly media sources like The New York Times, attempting to discredit Vigano by suggesting that Vigano is trying to create a rift in the Church between traditionalists and progressives.
Neither Cupich nor the Pope, however, have addressed Vigano's central claim: that the Pope has committed serious crimes that put his stewardship of the Church into question.
To cap off his assessment of Vigano's claims, Cupich appeared to accuse the Archbishop of abject racism.
"Quite frankly," Cupich said, "they also don't like him because he's Latino."
Pope Francis is, in fact, ethnically Italian.