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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Embattled Cdl. Donald Wuerl is painting himself as a sacrificial lamb who stepped down to help the Church "get to a new place."
In an Oct. 11 interview with America magazine, the archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C. touched on a host of issues, including the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the McCarrick scandal and Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò's allegations against him.
Wuerl told the Jesuit weekly that he asked Pope Francis to accept his resignation for the sake of "healing and unity" — glossing over his earlier, months-long refusal to relinquish power.
"I felt that my ability to be able to serve that unity would have required concentrating on a defense of myself and of my actions and that would, I believe, have taken us in the wrong direction rather than trying to do the healing and unity as quickly as possible," he asserted. "That's why I asked the Holy Father to accept my resignation so that a new and fresh leadership did not have to deal with these other issues."
Though implicitly acknowledging widespread outrage over his record on clerical sex abuse and cover-up, Wuerl again refused to take responsibility for his actions; echoing Pope Francis, he described his failures as merely "errors of judgment."
"I made errors of judgment when we were dealing with all those cases before the Dallas Charter," he told America. "Some of those errors in judgment were based on professional psychological evaluations, some of the errors were based on moving too slowly as we tried to find some verification of the allegations. Those were all judgmental errors, and I certainly regret them."
He added: "I think what we can say is that a careful reading of the [Pennsylvania grand jury] report and the diocese of Pittsburgh's response, which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed to be attached to the grand jury report, shows that I acted in a very responsible way to remove predator priests."
In fact, a careful reading of the grand jury report does just the opposite. The report implicated Wuerl — naming him more than 160 times — in a massive cover-up of clerical sex abuse. As Church Militant reported in August:
Among the most disturbing details in the 884-page Pennsylvania grand jury report was that then-Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh gave a priest involved in a child porn ring [Fr. George Zirwas] extra money in exchange for the priest's silence. Not only that, Wuerl gave the priest a glowing eulogy at his funeral in 2001, even posthumously restoring him to full priestly status.
... That stipend was used to fund Zirwas' homosexual lifestyle in Cuba, where he lived for several years in a Havana apartment with his younger Cuban boyfriend and served as liaison to foreigners looking to hook up with male Cuban prostitutes.
... Zirwas' case is even more bizarre when it's revealed he was part of a pederast ring in Pittsburgh involving four priests who used whips and chains on teen altar boys, who were plied with drugs and alcohol and passed around for sex.
Likewise, the diocese of Pittsburgh's response did not correct misinformation, as Wuerl and his apologists repeatedly assert; it merely attempted — weakly — to poke holes in the grand jury's findings.
Wuerl also slammed Abp. Viganò's Aug. 25 testimony, which alleged that, as cardinal of Washington, D.C., he failed to enforce Pope Benedict XVI's sanctions against his predecessor, serial sexual predator Theodore McCarrick.
"In my read of that testimony, particularly the part that touches me, it is not faithful to the facts," he told America.
Wuerl again insisted he had no knowledge of McCarrick's crimes before they were publicly announced on June 20.
"I have clarified over and over again that during the 12 years that I served as archbishop of Washington no one ever brought me any allegation of misconduct, sexual misconduct by Cardinal McCarrick," he declared.
But, analysts point out, it beggars belief that Wuerl knew nothing about his predecessor.
In 2005, as bishop of Pittsburgh, Wuerl was named in a settlement agreement involving McCarrick and a Pittsburgh priest. The plaintiff in that case, former priest Robert Ciolek, told The Washington Post last month that it is "inconceivable" that Wuerl would not have been notified of the $80,000 settlement involving both McCarrick — the leading U.S. cardinal at that time — as well as one of Wuerl's own priests.
Reflecting on the current state of the Church in the United States, Wuerl suggested the worst has passed.
"[R]emember we have made big progress," he said. "Take a look at how we, as a hierarchy, are ensuring accountability for our actions."
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