Cardinal Wuerl is Denying Denials, but Video Doesn’t Lie

Image: screen grab via CBS News.

In what may just be the most unintentionally humorous headline in Catholic news this year, we get this triple-negative from J.D. Flynn at Catholic News Agency (CNA):

Wuerl denies prior denials denied knowledge of McCarrick seminarian abuse

It reminds me of the old saying, “Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three lefts do.”

I say it’s unintentional, because it’s a serious article, but I’ve gotten to know J.D. a little bit over the past couple of months, and I suspect there’s some subtle gallows humor at work here. Once again, it appears we are being lied to by one of the most influential Catholic cardinals in the world, and he thinks we’re stupid enough to buy it.

The article itself details how Cardinal Wuerl – the former archbishop of, and current administrator of (with no apparent difference) the D.C. Archdiocese – is handling the revelation that he passed a report about Theodore McCarrick’s illicit activities to the apostolic nuncio back in 2004. As you may recall, that report dealt with an accusation from a Pittsburgh-area priest, now laicized, named Robert Ciolek.

According to CNA, in a letter to priests dated January 12, Wuerl wrote of the complaint made by Ciolek:

The entire report was also immediately turned over to the Apostolic Nuncio – the Papal Representative in the U.S. Having acted responsibly with the allegation involving Bishop McCarrick’s behavior with an adult and hearing nothing more on the matter I did not avert to this again[.]

Wuerl is insisting, Flynn reports, that he “appropriately handled” this allegation and that his “recent denials of knowledge concerning McCarrick’s alleged misdeeds pertained only to the sexual abuse of minors.” More from his letter to priests:

When the allegation of sexual abuse of a minor was brought against Archbishop McCarrick, I stated publicly that I was never aware of any such allegation or rumors. This assertion was in the context of the charges of sexual abuse of minors, which at the time was the focus of discussion and media attention.

While one may interpret my statement in a different context, the discussion around and adjudication of Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior concern his abuse of minors[.]

The only problem is that he did deny knowing about McCarrick acting inappropriately with adults, and here’s the proof. In an interview with CBS News in August of 2018, Wuerl flatly denied knowing about the allegations that McCarrick “was having relationships with other priests.” And just look at the phony smile on his face when he says it:

According to CNA, Wuerl also told the D.C.-based news radio station WTOP that he hadn’t heard any rumors about McCarrick engaging in sexual misconduct.

Wuerl appears to be attempting another example of the notorious mental evasion, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Here’s Washington, D.C. Archdiocese spokesman Ed McFadden taking a stab at Clintonian doublethink:

Wuerl’s letter did not offer detail on the specific allegations Ciolek made against McCarrick, but Archdiocese of Washington spokesman Ed McFadden told CNA last week they concerned behavior by McCarrick at his New Jersey beach house, where the archbishop is alleged to have shared beds with seminarians, and exchanged backrubs with them.

McFadden said Ciolek “never claimed direct sexual engagement with McCarrick” in his complaint to Wuerl.

The level of dissimulation being deployed here is staggering. Keep smiling, Your Eminence, if you think that’s convincing anyone. But you’ll have to forgive us for not believing you when you say you didn’t know.

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