The headline for this piece was the first thought I had upon reading the following from The Pillar:
The Archdiocese of Washington has allocated more than $2 million for the “ministry activities” of retired Cardinal Donald Wuerl.
The archdiocese, which has pledged in recent years a commitment to financial transparency, has not responded to questions about the details of Wuerl’s continued ministry, the costs associated with it, or the source of the funds allocated for Wuerl.
According to financial records of the Archdiocese of Washington, $2,012,639 was designated for “continuing ministry activities for [the] Archbishop Emeritus” during the 2020 fiscal year.
The amount is a 35% increase from the $1,488,059 allocated to Wuerl’s ministry in the 2019 fiscal year reports.
According to audited financial statements from the archdiocese, the funds for Wuerl’s continuing ministry were allocated from “net assets without donor restrictions.” That means the money was not given to the archdiocese explicitly for Wuerl’s use, and could have been deployed for other purposes at the discretion of the archdiocese.
The archdiocesan 2020 financial statement includes an unfunded priest retirement liability of at least $35 million, which has grown from $23.5 million since 2015.
The statement also includes a 30% drop in funds earmarked for “Archdiocesan charitable giving” in the 2020 fiscal year, which decreased to $401,136, from $651,136 in fiscal year 2019.
The amount allocated to “formation of priests” also declined, from $1,102,500 in 2019 to $1,000,481 in 2020.
Regular readers know I have an axe to grind with our bishops, and some may recognize that I have a special antipathy towards all three of the most recent Archbishops of Washington DC, for related reasons.
Wuerl is, not to put too fine a point on it, a very creepy sort of creature. He’s got a perma-smile on his face — more of a rictus, really — but one senses that there is something dark lurking not far beneath his artificially cheery surface. According to George Neumayr at The American Spectator, that impression may have a basis in reality:
Some of Donald Wuerl’s priests called him the “Tin Man,” a reference to his cold, heartless style as the archbishop of Washington, D.C.
It is hilarious that Wuerl became arguably the most powerful American cardinal in the “pastoral church of Pope Francis,” given that Wuerl is the least pastoral prelate imaginable. He instinctively avoided encounters with his flock and priests, unless they served some immediate interest or enjoyed riches and power. “He is a robot,” said one of his priests. “All he cared about was money and living as comfortably as possible and whatever else he got up to.”
He is also a man who knows a great deal about the scandals of the archdiocese, but pretends — wholly unconvincingly — that he doesn’t. Let’s take a brief stroll down memory lane, as a refresher for those who haven’t given a second thought to him in the past couple of years:
In August 2018, he disappeared for a brief time, and the Catholic media was all in a tizzy about how he was fleeing the country to avoid arrest and prosecution. But he eventually turned back up, and continued running the DC Archdiocese despite his disgraced handling of the McCarrick affair.
His resignation was accepted in October of the same year, allegedly at his own request, but Pope Francis publicly praised him and kept him in place as apostolic administrator of the diocese until Wilton Gregory was appointed as DC’s new Archbishop in April of 2019.
During that time, Wuerl “denied prior denials” that he “denied knowledge of McCarrick seminarian abuse.” His weasel-worded approach was mounted by means of a Clintonesque parsing of semantics: “When the allegation of sexual abuse of a minor was brought against Archbishop McCarrick,” he said, “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.”
Ah, riiiight. So it was only abuse of minors that he denied knowing about. Except, you know, that he actually lied about the seminarians, too. As I wrote at the time:
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.”
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 then shifted gears again, changing his defense to, “Whoops, I forgot I knew about harassment claims.” No, seriously:
D.C.’s embattled Catholic leader, Donald Wuerl, under fire in recent days for untruthful statements regarding what he knew about the alleged sexual misconduct of his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick, apologized late Tuesday, saying he forgot he knew about the allegations and that it was “never the intention to provide false information.”
McCarrick himself indicated, as was reported by his former personal secretary, Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo, that Wuerl knew about the restrictions on his ministry, placed on him by Pope Benedict XVI:
Figueiredo also notes that McCarrick stated that he had “shared the letter with his Archbishop,” who at the time was Archbishop Wuerl. In so stating, Figueiredo argues, “McCarrick indicates that then Archbishop Wuerl was aware of the letter and restrictions in 2008” — a claim Wuerl continues to deny — ” and that a copy might exist in the archives of the Archdiocese of Washington.” In several other areas of the correspondence Figueiredo has in his possession, McCarrick indicates that he is working with Wuerl on cooperating with the restrictions placed on his public ministry and obtaining a new place of residence.
None of this even touches on the things that went down in Pittsburgh under his watch.
So the question remains: what else did Cardinal Wuerl “forget” he knew? And what makes it worth paying an 80 year old disgraced cardinal 7 figures a year in retirement?
The Pillar can’t get any answers from the Archdiocese or Wuerl’s office.
As outrageous as this is, can anyone, at this point, be surprised?
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children.