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Investigation: Cardinal Wuerl received $2 million in 2020 for ‘ministry activities’

By CNA Staff

Pope Francis talks with Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, retired archbishop of Washington, during a private audience at the Vatican Oct. 30, 2020. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Washington D.C., Mar 4, 2021 / 05:32 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop emeritus of Washington DC who stepped down in 2018 amid scandal, received over $2 million from the archdiocese last year for unspecified “ministry activities,” an investigation has found.

A March 3 examination of the archdiocese’s financial records by The Pillar found that Wuerl was allocated $2,012,639 for “continuing ministry activities” during fiscal year 2020.

The amount appropriated to Wuerl is up from approximately $1.5 million in 2019. The archdiocesan financial statement does not detail what “continuing ministry activities” the funds facilitated.

In contrast, the amount the archdiocese allocated for “Formation of priests” declined slightly from $1.1 million in 2019 to just over $1 million in 2020.

Similarly, “Archdiocesan charitable giving” in 2020 was listed at just over $401,000, down from just over $651,000 in fiscal year 2019.

The Pillar confirmed that Wuerl gave at least one retreat to a group of U.S. bishops in January 2021. The archdiocese did not respond to The Pillar’s questions about what other ministry responsibilities, if any, the archdiocese had given Wuerl.

Revelations during summer 2018 about the sexual misconduct of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick raised questions about whether Wuerl, McCarrick’s successor, was aware of McCarrick’s misdeeds.

McCarrick was found to have sexually abused both minors and adult seminarians and priests, and Pope Francis laicized him in Feb. 2019.

For his part, Wuerl has insisted he knew nothing about McCarrick’s sexual misconduct until 2018.

But previous reporting by CNA, as well as the recent McCarrick Report, found that Wuerl was made aware in 2004 of inappropriate conduct, apparently not of a sexual nature, on the part of McCarrick involving an adult.

Though Wuerl forwarded a report of the alleged misconduct to the apostolic nuncio in Washington, D.C., no record has been found that the nuncio, who by that time had fallen seriously ill, ever forwarded it to the Vatican.

The McCarrick Report also details a 2010 incident whereby Wuerl advised against then-Pope Benedict sending a birthday greeting to McCarrick because there remained “the possibility that the New York Times is going to publish a nasty article, already prepared, about the Cardinal’s ‘moral life.’”

Wuerl, 80, was appointed to lead the Washington archdiocese in May 2006. Pope Benedict XVI named him a cardinal in 2010. He was previously Bishop of Pittsburgh since 1988.

Wuerl had submitted his resignation to the Vatican in 2015 upon turning 75, as is the requirement for bishops.

Pope Francis accepted Wuerl’s resignation in Oct. 2018 at Wuerl’s request, but asked him to remain as Apostolic Administrator until the appointment of his successor. In May 2019, Archbishop— now Cardinal— Wilton Gregory was installed in Washington.

The archdiocese of Washington released a statement March 4 following The Pillar’s report, saying the funds in the “continuing ministry activities” account are donations “made by persons who want to cover Cardinal Wuerl’s expenses and ministerial needs.”

These include “living expenses, prior travel for business in Rome, as well as for charitable requests asked of the archbishop emeritus,” the statement said, adding that the “donations have accumulated over time.”

However, The Pillar noted that the funds allocated for Wuerl are classified as “net assets without donor restrictions,” meaning they are not subject to “donor imposed restrictions stipulating how, when and/or if the net assets are available for expenditure.”

The designation appears at odds with the archdiocese’s statement that the funds were donated with the specific intention of covering Wuerl’s expenses.

The Pillar contacted the archdiocese to ask specifically about the funds’ designation—  which is regulated both by state law and the IRS— and did not receive a reply by press time.

“All the expenses of Cardinal Gregory and Cardinal Wuerl are reviewed by members of the Archdiocesan Finance Council throughout the year. All expenditures go through the Archdiocese’s normal budget and internal control procedures, which are also audited by an accounting firm annually,” the archdiocesan statement concluded.

The U.S. bishops’ conference has guidelines for providing for retired bishops, recommending that their diocese give them a stipend of at least $2,250 per month, as well as housing, health insurance, a car, travel expenses, secretarial assistance if needed, and a suitable funeral and burial.

McCarrick, Wuerl’s predecessor, is known to have funnelled hundreds of thousands of dollars through what was known as the Archbishop’s Fund, and reportedly made gifts to senior Vatican officials, even while the fund remained under the charitable auspices of the archdiocese.

The Archdiocese of Washington has so far declined to disclose sources, sums, and uses of money, though it has acknowledged that the fund exists.

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  1. It’s really hard for me to imagine how a retired archbishop could need $2 million/year from his archdiocese, which is why this fund needs a detailed explanation. Perhaps it is legitimate, but if it is, no one should be ashamed or afraid to provide the details. If those details are not forthcoming, the speculation will only veer toward the scandalous.

    • Also, since $2 million was for 2020, and Wilton Gregory officially replaced him in May 2019? That is thinking ahead? A good question would be how much money was Wilton Gregory allocated for 2020? Or is there just a name change from Wuerl to Gregory for 2020? This donation thing also seems a bit fishy. When retired, seems $70,000 – $80,000 max ought to be sufficient for a retired archbishop. I guess we are all poor in spirit, but many, including retired archbishops, are not poor in material wealth.
      Yet probably the biggest factor in all this is how the Church does not answer questions! Implies they are concealing something.

  2. The silence of the Church establishment, for just one example His Eminence Gregory, is a mark of abusive men. They tell you on Monday that they will always tell the truth. And as of Tuesday, they impose silence. It is the model employed by the Pontiff Francis when confronted by questions about his connection with McCarrick.

    It is contempt for the Truth, and contempt for those who seek the Truth.

  3. How can anyone read this story without being shocked at how far the Church has strayed from the founder who had no place of his own to lay his head

    • Nothing is too good for his Eminence. Even as the Church struggles, his comfort is paramount. One and a half million in the previous year was not enough for the poor, unappreciated prelate. Another $500,000 for him! Sounds a lot like a pension plan for the uppermost 1%. The archdiocese bought and furnished his house. To be sure there is a generous living allowance, probably a chauffeur, a maid and a chef; no doubt a secretary. And everyone thought he resigned in shame. Would that the folks on fixed incomes – who weekly drop money in collection baskets – could live that kind of shamed existence. Well, if he had not been lavished so well, the Cardinal would have thrown one of his well known tantrums.

        • If by obedience you mean obedience to the Gospels, then you’re talking about zero out of three, and you’re also talking about situation normal.

        • ‘Do All Priests Take A Vow Of Poverty? – MFVA – Franciscan …
          Search domain
          Diocesan priests do not even make vows, they make “promises” of obedience to their bishop: chastity and to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Vows, on the other hand, are typically made by members of religious orders, such as Franciscans, Benedictines, Dominicans, et. al. These vows typically include poverty, obedience, and chastity.’

  4. Don’t give one dime to “The Church” that leaves your local Parrish!

    Here we’re selling fish sandwiches and coleslaw to support our schools, and on and on…

  5. “… a stipend of at least $2,250 per month, as well as housing, health insurance, a car, travel expenses, secretarial assistance if needed, and a suitable funeral and burial.” Looks pretty good. Keep that Archbishop’s Fund cookie jar loaded — loaded, ready, on tap.

    Maybe the water level is dropping and more of the iceberg is beginning to show.

  6. Similar questionable and inexplicable facts led me to stop donations of relatively large annual sums to the Basilica. The decision was agonizing, but I ultimately concluded it was right and just. When the likes of Washington DC prelates grant Holy Communion to President Biden, something rotten from the state of Denmark made its way to the Church. May the good Lord help us through the cesspool.

    • Investigation? Surely we cannot be expected to believe the results of any investigation! Why should anyone believe anything any more?!! Particularly if it comes from our government or from our ecclesial leaders.

      The face of the facts thus far demonstrate something astonishing. The archdiocese explains that Wuerl received his funds from its ‘unrestricted’ source of funds for ministry and charity. Business accounting defines this type of fund as money received and expended for no specific purpose. Charitable funds for charitable missions? The archdiocese supplied no names of any mission or charity which received the funds! The conclusion is fairly straightforward and fairly obvious. If there were any missions or any charities which benefited, why not name them?? The buck stopped with Wuerl.

      A good investigation ought to ask how much money the Biden Administration intends to give American prelates in order to further Biden’s brand of Catholicism. The funds could be given under the guise of ‘resettlement of refugees’. Along with the illegal immigrant crossing our borders, perhaps retired prelates such as Wuerl could be considered refugees needing resettling. Wuerl’s home may in fact be in Biden’s pocket.

      Will anyone be surprised when next year’s survey shows that even fewer Catholics believe in the Real Presence? If the Eucharist is our pearl, it’s been thrown, like dice.

  7. Don’t give one dime to “The Church” that leaves your local Parrish!

    Here we’re selling fish sandwiches and coleslaw to support our schools, and on and on…while millions are spent on the misadventures of Bishops and Cardinals!

  8. Wuerl, Gregory, Biden, Pelosi, ad infinitum. We’ve got some humdingers representing us in the capitol.


  9. The next scandal to hit the Catholic Church will be the “Financial Scandal” of the Hierarchical elite. Unlike the executives in the corporate and government sectors, our ecclesiastical leaders should be an example of a “counter-culture” to the accumulation and beneficial use of material wealth.

  10. Hmmm, should Catholic bishops in the USA be required to register as agents of a foreign government?
    Think Cupich – Vatican – Gomez letter fiasco re Biden.

  11. Don, you may very well be correct. But to war game your prediction, what would come from a “Financial Scandal” even if there were an investigation? Nothing at all. Just more souls departing the Church in disgust. The powers that be truly treat the faithful as idiots. They hold absolute, unanswerable power and we see the result.

    Returning to Quentin’s comment I take the same comfort from the example of the priests I encounter at the parish level. Whereas I have absolutely no faith at all in my local archbishop, I have tremendous faith in the priests at the local level who are performing the grunt work of actually saving souls.

  12. Let’s get real! Christ had 12 apostles, one was a failure.
    I refuse to abandon my faith in Christ and the one true Church. I like so many good people, not perfect people intend to thank God for the seven Sacraments, all Chanel’s of powerful grace to transform me.
    I pray for those who have been a scandal! Christ said ” Woe to those!!! … ”
    Leaving the “Since when is that a solution?” Rats leave
    a sinking ship.” It’s a fact not a judgment.”
    The Church will overcome, Christ promised to be with
    us Always! He is faithful when we are not.
    To those who have left, we miss you, pray for you and await your humble return.
    For the rest of us may we with the grace of God work hard to be part of the Solution, not part of the problem.

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