Records have surfaced indicating that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the former archbishop turned apostolic administrator of Washington, D.C., knew about allegations of sexual abuse against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick as early as 2004, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports.
A report about one such allegation was forwarded by Wuerl to the apostolic nuncio in D.C. at that time, while Wuerl still served as archbishop of Pittsburgh. CNA confirmed with a spokesman of the Washington Archdiocese that the allegation about McCarrick was given to Wuerl as “part of a complaint made by laicized priest Robert Ciolek.”
According to CNA, in a January 10 statement from the Pittsburgh Diocese, it was revealed that Ciolek appeared before the Pittsburgh diocesan review board in 2004 to discuss an allegation of abuse against another priest.
In that same meeting, the diocese said, “Mr. Ciolek also spoke of his abuse by then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. This was the first time the Diocese of Pittsburgh learned of this allegation.”
Wuerl has consistently denied knowing about McCarrick’s activities, expressing “shock, confusion, anger and frustration” about the allegations against his predecessor. In an interview with National Catholic Reporter’s Josh McElwey on August 5, he was said to have denied even being aware of “rumors about McCarrick’s alleged abuse of young men during the former cardinal’s time as a priest and bishop.”
“If there were [rumors], and if people heard them, there needs to be some mechanism by which there can be at least an evaluation and review of them,” said Wuerl, speaking in a phone conversation.
“I think it’s very important that we … as bishops enter into that world and say, ‘If there is an accumulation of rumors, ought not something be said?’ ” the cardinal continued.
Despite these denials, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò claimed in his August 2018 testimony about abuse cover-up in the Church that he had personally discussed McCarrick’s activities with Wuerl:
“I myself brought up the subject with Cardinal Wuerl on several occasions, and I certainly didn’t need to go into detail because it was immediately clear to me that he was fully aware of it,” he writes. Cardinal Wuerl’s “recent statements that he knew nothing about it … are absolutely laughable. He lies shamelessly.”
“Cardinal Wuerl, well aware of the continuous abuses committed by Cardinal McCarrick and the sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict, transgressing the Pope’s order, also allowed him to reside at a seminary in Washington D.C. In doing so, he put other seminarians at risk,” he attests.
McCarrick abuse victim James Grein also claimed in a podcast interview with Taylor Marshall and Timothy Gordon last December that Wuerl knew. “I know that Cardinal Wuerl knows,” Grein said. “And, uh, that’s…that was just, uh, the day that I met Wuerl at the Hilton in Washington, D.C. right after he was made the archbishop of Washington, D.C. was a very hard day for me to take.
Today’s revelation of the report Wuerl sent to the apostolic nuncio in 2004 is the first time, however, that there has been independent confirmation of Wuerl’s pre-existing knowledge of McCarrick’s illicit behavior.
According to CNA, the Archdiocese of Washington issued a statement today claiming that “Cardinal Wuerl has attempted to be accurate in addressing questions about Archbishop McCarrick. His statements previously referred to claims of sexual abuse of a minor by Archbishop McCarrick, as well as rumors of such behavior. The Cardinal stands by those statements, which were not intended to be imprecise.”
For more details on this breaking story, read the full report at CNA.