Vatican wants to tackle problems in Washington archdiocese ahead of abuse summit at Vatican. But now a letter of apology from Cardinal Wuerl stirs up tempers again.
Twice in the past few days, the priests of the influential capital diocese of Washington received mail from their former bishop and current apostolic administrator, Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Both cases involved the "Causa McCarrick," Cardinal Theodore McCarrick (88), who fell over abuse allegations. He faces removal from priesthood in canon law case.
Wuerl, McCarrick's successor as archbishop of Washington, was also caught in the maelstrom of accusations in 2018 when he was accused of connivance. In July, Pope Francis accepted Wuerl's request for resignation. At the same time, he asked the 78-year-old to continue to lead the archdiocese on a provisional basis until a successor is named.
Only aware of assaults on adults
In this capacity, Wuerl turned to the 12. January to his priests to are them he had not known about McCarrick's alleged abuse of a minor until 2018, but had only heard of allegations of assaults on adults.
Three days later, Wuerl felt compelled to take up the pen again to clarify his statement. He had not remembered all the details of a 14-year-old complaint by a then-priest, made during Wuerl's time as bishop of Pittsburgh (1988-2006). At the time, the person concerned sought advice because of McCarrick's "inappropriate behavior," which he himself had observed and experienced.
At the time, Wuerl forwarded the accusations to the Vatican (for which he was explicitly praised by the person concerned). The fact that the extensive complaint package apparently included an accusation of sexual abuse of a minor in addition to McCarrick's sexual acts against adult seminarians is now becoming a burden for Wuerl. For a knowledge of precisely this detail he had denied.
Confronted with "gaps in memory
The ex-priest who complained about McCarrick in Pittsburgh at the time is Robert Ciolek. Ciolek, who is now married, said he wanted to confront Wuerl with "gaps in his memory" weeks ago. But it was only after he contacted the "Washington Post" with details of the story that Wuerl responded with an apology to the person involved and the second letter to the priests.
He had "forgotten" that Ciolek had also told him about an abuse allegation against McCarrick back in 2004. In addition, he had wanted to protect Ciolek's privacy. "It was never my intention to pass on false information," Wuerl ares his clergy. Ciolek expressed disappointment with the cardinal's response. He said the apology lacks "truth and substance". "I don't believe for a moment that he has forgotten."
What's next for Wuerl?
Documents support Ciolek's account that Wuerl knew of allegations against McCarrick and forwarded them to the appropriate authorities in Rome. In 2005, Ciolek settled with several dioceses for pain and suffering damages for sexual assault in three cases; one case, in which Ciolek was a victim as a young adult, involved McCarrick.
It remains unclear how things will continue for Cardinal Wuerl after the two letters to his priests. The Vatican actually wanted to get a handle on the problems in Washington before the abuse summit at the Vatican. Pope Francis is now coming under increased prere to replace his "administrator" as soon as possible by appointing a proper successor.