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Wuerl knew of McCarrick abuse allegations in 2004

The news raises questions about 2018 statements from Wuerl that denied he had even heard “rumors” about his predecessor as Archbishop of Washington.

Then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, and Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington concelebrate Mass in 2010 in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Washington D.C., Jan 10, 2019 / 05:13 pm (CNA).- An allegation of misconduct against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick was reported to Cardinal Donald Wuerl in 2004, while the cardinal served as Bishop of Pittsburgh. Wuerl forwarded the report to the apostolic nuncio in Washington, DC, the Diocese of Pittsburgh said Thursday.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington confirmed to CNA that an allegation against McCarrick was presented to Wuerl while he served as Bishop of Pittsburgh, as part of a complaint made by laicized priest Robert Ciolek.

In a statement, the Diocese of Pittsburgh said Jan. 10 that laicized priest Robert Ciolek appeared in November 2004 before its diocesan review board to discuss an allegation of abuse Ciolek had made against a Pittsburgh priest.

During that meeting, “Mr. Ciolek also spoke of his abuse by then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. 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.”

The disclosure is the first confirmation by Church authorities that Wuerl was aware of allegations against McCarrick before the Archdiocese of New York announced in June 2018 a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor made against McCarrick.

The news raises questions about 2018 statements from Wuerl that denied he had even heard “rumors” about his predecessor as Archbishop of Washington.

In 2004, Ciolek submitted a lengthy letter to Wuerl, alleging that he had been the victim of sexual abuse committed by a Pittsburgh priest while he was a student at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary.

Ed McFadden, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington, told CNA that in 2004 Ciolek “asked that his complaint against McCarrick be forwarded to the [apostolic] nuncio. And it was,” McFadden told CNA.

“Wuerl forwarded the file and his complaint to the nunciature in 2004.”

“At that time Ciolek asked for complete confidentiality, and that his name never be mentioned.”

The statement from the Diocese of Pittsburgh confirmed that Ciolek had originally insisted on confidentiality, but also that he had recently authorized the diocese to speak about the matter.

“Mr. Ciolek asked that the allegation regarding then-Cardinal McCarrick be shared only with ecclesiastical – that is – Church authorities,” the statement said.

“In November 2018 Mr. Ciolek authorized the Diocese of Pittsburgh to respond to press inquiries about this matter.”

The diocese confirmed that Ciolek visited Pittsburgh recently to review files related to his complaint, and that diocesan officials were aware that he intended to discuss the matter with the press.

Ciolek reached a settlement agreement with three New Jersey dioceses in 2005 in connection with clerical sexual abuse allegations. The settlement awarded Ciolek some $80,000 in response to allegations that concerned both McCarrick and a Catholic school teacher.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh said it was not aware of the settlement until July 2018. Similarly, the Archdiocese of Washington said Wuerl was unaware of the 2005 settlement until that time.

Details of Ciolek’s settlement were first reported in September 2018. At that time, the Washington Post reported that the settlement agreement included references to Wuerl, and to the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Neither the Pittsburgh diocese nor McFadden offered detail on the specific allegations made against McCarrick, but McFadden said they concerned behavior by McCarrick at his New Jersey beach house, where the archbishop is alleged to have shared beds with seminarians, and exchanged backrubs with them.

McFadden said Ciolek “never claimed direct sexual engagement with McCarrick” in his complaint to Wuerl.

The news that Wuerl received a formal complaint against McCarrick as early as 2004, and forwarded it to the apostolic nunciature in Washington raises serious questions about the intended meaning of Wuerl’s 2018 statements concerning McCarrick.

Wuerl wrote in a June 21 letter that he was “shocked and saddened” by allegations made against McCarrick.

In the same letter, Wuerl affirmed that “no claim – credible or otherwise – has been made against Cardinal McCarrick during his time here in Washington.”

In a Jan. 10 statement, the Archdiocese of Washington said that “Cardinal Wuerl has attempted to be accurate in addressing questions about Archbishop McCarrick.  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.”

“Cardinal Wuerl has said that until the accusation of abuse of a minor by Cardinal McCarrick was made in New York, no one from this archdiocese has come forward with an accusation of abuse by Archbishop McCarrick during his time in Washington.”

“It is important to note that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick was appointed to the Archdiocese of Washington in November 2000 and named a cardinal in February 2001, years before Mr. Ciolek made his claims. Then-Bishop Wuerl was not involved in the decision-making process resulting in the appointment and promotion.”

Wuerl’s resignation as Archbishop of Washington was accepted October 12, 2018. The cardinal was appointed by Pope Francis as apostolic administrator, or interim leader, of the archdiocese until a successor is appointed.

The cardinal fell under heavy criticism in the second half of last year, after a Pennsylvania grand jury report about clerical sexual abuse released in July raised questions about his leadership while he served as Bishop of Pittsburgh.

Despite earning a reputation as an early champion of “zero-tolerance” policies and the use of lay-led diocesan review boards to handle accusations of clerical sexual abuse, Wuerl faced questions about his handling of several cases during his time in Pittsburgh after he was named more than 200 times in the grand jury report.

The disclosure also raises further questions about how McCarrick was able to remain in office and in apparently unrestricted ministry during retirement. In July 2018, a priest named Fr. Boniface Ramsey told the New York Times that he expressed to Church authorities concerns about McCarrick’s conduct with seminarians as early as 2000, when McCarrick was appointed Archbishop of Washington.

Concerned by the appointment, Ramsey said that he contacted then-nuncio Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo Higuera to report allegations of McCarrick’s misconduct with seminarians in his beach house. Ramsey said that he had heard accounts of this misconduct from his own seminary students.

Ramsey said he put his concerns in writing at the request of Montalvo, who promised to forward them to Rome.

Ramsey subsequently released a letter from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, dated 2006 and signed by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, acknowledging his complaint of 2000, apparently confirming that Montalvo had sent Ramsey’s letter to Rome.

Montalvo was still in his position when Wuerl reportedly forwarded Ciolek’s complaint in 2004, and would remain in Washington until August 2006, when he died suddenly.

McFadden told CNA that while he could confirm Wuerl sent Ciolek’s complaint to the nuncio as requested, neither he nor Wuerl were aware that any further action was taken on the matter.

“As far as we can tell, the nunciature never acted on that, but we don’t have any more information.”

Montalvo’s successor as nuncio in Washington was Archbishop Pietro Sambi. CNA has previously reported that in 2008, acting on explicit instructions from Pope Benedict XVI, Sambi ordered McCarrick to move out of the archdiocesan seminary in which he was living during his retirement.

That order, and other measures which may have been imposed on McCarrick during his retirement, were a central feature of the allegations of Sambi’s own successor, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.

In his now-famous “testimony,” released in August last year, Vigano insisted that Wuerl had been aware of restrictions placed on McCarrick during his retirement for several years, and that they directly concerned his interactions with seminarians.

In response to Vigano’s claims, 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 Vigano.”

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  1. They lie and do t even think they are lying. Much like they simply don’t think homosexual activity is any big deal. A warped mindset hinders them from healthy functioning or managing. It’s a toxic clericalism.

  2. Wuerl is a liar…and a thug-Bishop.

    He lies to the face of every faithful Catholic and his fellow Bishops…and was quite happy to publicly crucify an ordinary priest who was set up in an LGBT media stunt to have a non-Catholic lesbian publicly demand Holy Communion at her mother’s funeral. The priest refused.

    Wuerl was happy to crush and destroy this priest for defending the meaning of Holy Communion.

    Should Wuerl in turn be crushed and destroyed for his grave sins of covering up sexual abuse of altar boys and seminarians?

  3. Wuerl’s non-resignation and continued control over the Washington DC Archdiocese is a disgrace and proof that Pope Francis does not take this crisis seriously.

    Wuerl, Cupich, Tobin, Farrell and Pope Francis all need to resign.

  4. Now the AD of W spokesman Mr. McFadden, defending Wuerl, states that Wuerl in denying he knew anything, even a rumor about McCarrick, was “not trying to be imprecise.”

    Which is an admission of two things: (1) Wuerl’s statements were vague by reasonable standards of behavior; and (2) Wuerl purposely excluded the accusations of McCarrick’s sexual offenses against Mr. Ciolek (a seminarian at the time?), accusations relayed to Wuerl in 2004 which Wuerl then relayed to the Papal Nuncio.

    Which means that as far as Wuerl is concerned: (1) McCarrick could molest seminarians and priests and that is not abuse as far as Wuerl is concerned; and (2) Wuerl persists in contempt for the faithful and all others seeking the truth (just as he did to the entire US Review Board and all faithful Bishops, clergy and laity during his years of witholding cases from our own Church investigation), by asking people to buy into his deceitful evasions and pretend he is honest.

  5. All readers:

    See Phillip Lawler’s blog for 11 Jan 2019 on the Bishop Zanchetta (Argentina)case. A confirmation of the pattern of coverup by Pope Francis, who appointed Zanchetta Bishop shortly after Francis became Pope, and then rescued Zanchetta from charges of sex abuse of seminarians, giving him a posh assignment in the Vatican real estate office (APSA) knowing that Zanchetta was charged with some of the very same offenses McCarrick was charged with.

    Pattern is the same…just like Pope Francis did when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aries in the Rev. Grassi case in Argentina, when as Cardinal Bergoglio, he mounted a multi-million dollar legal defense of Grassi, now serving 15 years for sex abuse of minors.

    This is where we have arrived as of 2013: a notorious sex abuse coverup Cardinal, Danneels of Belgium, was standing on the balcony when Pope Francis introduced himself, three short years after Danneels was retired in disgrace after the Belgian newspapers (De Staandard, etc August 2010) published a Catholic family’s story that Danneels was covering up the sexual abuse of their son/brother, who as a boy and teen was raped by Danneel’s friend Bishop Vangelwuhe, the family’s uncle.

  6. Can you imagine the officers in any other organization on the planet acting in such a deceitful manner for so long?
    And still maintaining their positions…with no consequences. It is mind boggling for me. It makes me sick, really.

  7. This tactician will turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. He is revolting. Rumors were rampant about McCarrick. I heard about it in 2001 and my clergy connections are sparse. They all knew, and they knew the rumors were not unfounded.
    They all knew.

  8. Wasn’t Wuerl the prelate along with the Little Sisters of the Poor that attended Donald Trump’s WH Rose Garden expose when Trump, a misogynist, basked in the Washington Sun in full display of his closeness to the Catholic Church when he instituted a change to AHC on insurance companies saying that they were no longer mandated to offer contraceptive coverage because of their faith. Clean as a whistle.

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