Washington D.C., Aug 25, 2018 / 10:01 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington has denied a report that he was informed about restrictions apparently placed by the Vatican upon his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.
“Cardinal Wuerl did not receive documentation or information for the Holy See specific to Cardinal McCarrick’s behavior or any of the prohibitions on his life and ministry suggested by Archbishop Vigano,” the cardinal’s spokesman, Ed McFadden, told CNA.
On Aug. 25, Archbishop Carlo Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016, released a “testimony,” alleging that in 2009 or 2010, after receiving reports of habitual sexual misconduct on the part of McCarrick, Pope Benedict XVI had ordered that “the Cardinal was to leave the seminary where he was living, he was forbidden to celebrate [Mass] in public, to participate in public meetings, to give lectures, to travel, with the obligation of dedicating himself to a life of prayer and penance.”
Vigano wrote it was “absolutely unthinkable” that Archbishop Pietro Sambi, nuncio at the time the restrictions were imposed, would not have informed Wuerl about the restrictions placed upon McCarrick, who was, according to DC sources, living at that time in Washington’s Redemptoris Mater Seminary.
“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,” Vigano added. The archbishop mentioned one specific interaction, in which he raised with Wuerl a vocations promotional advertisement inviting young men to meet with McCarrick. Wuerl, he said, immediately said he would cancel the ad.
Wuerl does not dispute that he discussed with the archbishop a vocational promotion. However, according to McFadden, “Archbishop Vigano presumed that Wuerl had specific information that Wuerl did not have.”
While McCarrick reportedly did move from Redemptoris Mater Seminary in 2009 or 2010, McFadden said that “Cardinal Wuerl categorically denies that he was ever provided any information regarding the reasons for Cardinal McCarrick’s exit for the Redemptoris Mater Seminary.”
A source close to the cardinal told CNA that Wuerl had the impression some issues had arisen when McCarrick left the seminary, but neither McCarrick nor the apostolic nuncio spoke with him about the matter.
Vigano offered a different account: “Cardinal Wuerl, well aware of the continuous abuses committed by Cardinal McCarrick and the sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict, transgressing the Pope’s order, also allowed him to reside at a seminary in Washington D.C. In doing so, he put other seminarians at risk.”
McCarrick was removed from ministry on June 20, after the Archdiocese of New York deemed credible an allegation that he had serially sexually abused a teenage boy in the 1970s. Since that time, allegations have been made that McCarrick serially sexually abused at least one other teenage boy, and that he sexually coerced and assaulted young priests and seminarians during his decades of priestly and episcopal ministry. On July 28, McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals was accepted, and he awaits a Vatican trial.
A source close to McCarrick’s case told CNA that when Wuerl was informed that McCarrick was being investigated for an allegation of sexual abuse, he requested that McCarrick withdraw from public ministry, and McCarrick refused. The source said that Wuerl was not permitted by canon law to forbid McCarrick from exercising ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington, and that McCarrick has also refused requests from other Church leaders to avoid travel or ministry in their dioceses.
Archbishop Vigano’s “testimony” said that Wuerl’s “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.”
Vigano’s missive said that McCarrick has exercised influence over Vatican figures for decades, saying that the archbishop has had particular influence over Pope Francis. He said that McCarrick influenced several of the pope’s recent episcopal appointments, among them the 2014 appointment of Cardinal Blase Cupich to the Archdiocese of Chicago and the 2016 appointment of Cardinal Joseph Tobin to the Archdiocese of Newark.
The archbishop’s letter said that “Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses, and resign along with all of them.”
The Vatican has not yet responded to Vigano’s testimony.