The Catholic archbishop of Chicago, who was hand-picked by the pope to help organize an upcoming Vatican summit on clergy sex abuse, will have a leading role in the church’s effort to seek reforms, including the response to new allegations from the Illinois attorney general.

Cardinal Blase Cupich expressed regret for “our failures to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse” in a statement responding to the attorney general’s report, which said the church failed to disclose the names of at least 500 clergy accused of sexually abusing children.

Still, he said, his archdiocese, the state’s largest and long considered a flagship of American Catholicism, has been a leader in dealing with the issue.

Cupich, Francis’ first major U.S. appointment, will walk a tightrope as he tries to represent the embattled church, the distressed laity and a public demanding justice. Boston College theology professor Lisa Sowle Cahill said it will “be interesting to see how he negotiates” all of that.

Among the U.S. church hierarchy, Cupich “has certainly been a good example of honesty,” Cahill said, citing his willingness to step forward, accept accountability and attempt to enact better policies.

The report released Wednesday by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan concluded that the church’s six archdioceses did a woefully inadequate job of investigating allegations and in some cases did not investigate them at all or notify child-welfare officials. It did not say when the allegations were made.

Madigan’s report did not accuse the dioceses of withholding the names of “credibly” accused clergy. It concluded only that the list of names is far longer than the 185 disclosed by the church.

For his part, Cupich said he was disappointed after the Vatican told U.S. bishops last month not to vote on proposed new measures to investigate sexual misconduct or cover-ups within their ranks, even taking the step of coming up with a proposal himself. The Holy See wanted to delay any vote until after a global summit set for Feb. 21 to Feb. 24, raising its stakes considerably.


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