WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - New evidence confirms Cdl. Donald Wuerl knew about Abp. Theodore McCarrick's sexual misconduct, contradicting his previous claims to the contrary.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that Wuerl, as bishop of Pittsburgh, was made aware of a claim of sexual misconduct against McCarrick in 2004, and passed along the information to then-Vatican ambassador Gabriel Montalvo.
The claim was made by Fr. Robert Ciolek, who filed suit in the Pittsburgh diocese alleging, among other things, improper homosexual misconduct by McCarrick when Ciolek was a seminarian.
The archdiocese of Washington, D.C. confirmed in a statement Thursday that Wuerl was made aware of Ciolek's allegation in 2004 and "forwarded the Ciolek claim regarding then-Cardinal McCarrick to the Papal Nunciature in Washington, D.C., and received no further information regarding the matter."
After news broke June 20 that McCarrick had been suspended following credible allegations of abuse, Wuerl issued a statement saying he was "shocked" by the allegations.
In an August interview with CBS reporter Nikki Battiste, Wuerl said he was never aware of any rumors about McCarrick.
"Were you aware of the rumors McCarrick was having relations with other priests?" Nikki Battiste asked the cardinal.
"No, no," Wuerl answered.
In an attempt to justify the apparent contradiction, the Washington archdiocese claimed Wuerl was referring specifically to claims about minors.
"Cardinal Wuerl has attempted to be accurate in addressing questions about Archbishop McCarrick," read the statement. "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."
Critics who claim Wuerl knew all along say this latest news once again vindicates Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò, who accused Wuerl of "lying shamelessly":
Obviously, the first to have been informed of the measures taken by Pope Benedict was McCarrick's successor in Washington See, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, whose situation is now completely compromised by the recent revelations regarding his behavior as Bishop of Pittsburgh. ...
In any case, 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. ...
His recent statements that he knew nothing about it, even though at first he cunningly referred to compensation for the two victims, are absolutely laughable. The Cardinal lies shamelessly and prevails upon his Chancellor, Monsignor Antonicelli, to lie as well.
Wuerl was forced to step down in disgrace in October, after months of withering criticism following the McCarrick revelations and the explosive Pennsylvania grand jury report released Aug. 14, which revealed that Wuerl had protected predator priests, even paying hush money to a priest involved in a sadomasochistic child porn ring.
In spite of Wuerl's resignation, he remains in control in the Washington archdiocese, and still a man of influence at the Vatican. In November it was revealed that he was a ringleader, along with Chicago's Cdl. Blase Cupich, in crafting an alternate sex abuse proposal that would cut out laity from the McCarrick investigation and essentially allow the bishops to investigate themselves. This was a proposal originally put forth by Wuerl in August, and roundly mocked by Catholics, forcing Wuerl to backtrack and issue follow-up comments conceding that laity should be involved.
At the Baltimore bishops' conference in November, Wuerl's proposal resurfaced, this time through Cupich, who worked closely with Wuerl at the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops in the weeks preceding the meeting to draft the plan.