Despite Denials, Cardinal Wuerl Knew of McCarrick Abuse in 2004

Archbishop Donald Wuerl celebrates mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010. Pope Benedict XVI today named Washington's Archbishop Donald Wuerl, 69, to the College of Cardinals. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The diocese of Pittsburgh revealed Thursday that Washington D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl was aware of accusations of sexual misconduct against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick as far back as 2004, despite Wuerl’s insistence that he had heard nothing about them until 2018.

Robert Ciolek, a former priest of the diocese of Metuchen, spoke of his abuse by then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in November 2004 before a review board, the diocese of Pittsburgh said in a statement.

“This was the first time the Diocese of Pittsburgh learned of this allegation,” the statement said. “A few days later, then-Bishop Donald Wuerl made a report of the allegation to the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.”

Mr. Ciolek had originally insisted on confidentiality, but in November authorized the Diocese of Pittsburgh to respond to press inquiries about this matter, the statement said.

As the result of a settlement made in 2005 with three New Jersey dioceses, Mr. Ciolek was awarded some $80,000 in response to allegations against both Archbishop McCarrick and a Catholic school teacher.

The accusations against Archbishop McCarrick reportedly concerned his behavior at his New Jersey beach house, where he is alleged to have shared beds with seminarians.

In a letter dated last June 21, Cardinal Wuerl wrote that he was “shocked and saddened” by allegations made against Archbishop McCarrick, adding that “no claim — credible or otherwise — has been made against Cardinal McCarrick during his time here in Washington.”

In a July interview with the Catholic Standard, Wuerl said that he had learned of “rumors” and “innuendos” suggesting sexual impropriety over “the past month,” but that this was the first he had heard of them.

“But in my years here in Washington and even before that, I had not heard them,” Wuerl said. “With rumors – especially old rumors going back 30, 40, even 50 years – there is not much we can do unless people come forward to share what they know or what they experienced.”

In an 11-page bombshell report released last August last year, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former papal nuncio to the United States, said that Cardinal Wuerl was “well aware” of the allegations against McCarrick.

“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,” Viganò wrote. Cardinal Wuerl’s “recent statements that he knew nothing about it … are absolutely laughable. He lies shamelessly.”

Cardinal Wuerl was “well aware of the continuous abuses committed by Cardinal McCarrick and the sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict,” Viganò continued, and yet he ignored the sanctions imposed by Benedict XVI and allowed McCarrick “to reside at a seminary in Washington D.C.”

“In doing so, he put other seminarians at risk,” Viganò said.

In that report, Viganò attributed a number of important papal appointments in the United States — including those of Cardinals Blase Cupich in Chicago and Cardinal Joseph Tobin in Newark — to the influence of McCarrick, Wuerl, and Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga over Pope Francis.

“The appointments of Blase Cupich to Chicago and Joseph W. Tobin to Newark were orchestrated by McCarrick, Maradiaga and Wuerl, united by a wicked pact of abuses by the first, and at least of coverup of abuses by the other two,” Viganò said.

Viganò tied both the abuse crisis in the Church as well as coverups by bishops to an extensive “homosexual network” in the Church.

In response to Archbishop Viganò’s claims, Cardinal Wuerl denied “receiving documentation or information from the Holy See specific to Cardinal McCarrick’s behavior or any of the prohibitions on his life and ministry suggested by Archbishop Viganò.”

Pope Francis accepted Cardinal Wuerl’s resignation as Archbishop of Washington on October 12, 2018, at which time the pope asked Wuerl to stay on as interim administrator of the archdiocese until the appointment of a successor.

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