“Embattled Washington D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl has penned another explanation — three days after his first — for the dubious accounts he’s given regarding his knowledge of sexual misconduct allegations against his predecessor Theodore McCarrick. He now claims to have had a ‘lapse of memory’ regarding previous knowledge of McCarrick’s abuse.
‘I had forgotten,’ Wuerl told priests of the Washington archdiocese in a letter Tuesday about the charges of inappropriate conduct with a seminarian against McCarrick which Wuerl had been made aware of in 2004 when he was bishop of Pittsburgh.
‘Nonetheless, it is important for me to accept personal responsibility and apologize for this lapse of memory,’ Wuerl said. ‘There was never the intention to provide false information.’
Wuerl apologized Tuesday evening to former priest Robert Ciolek, and then sent the January 15 letter to his priests, the Washington Post reports.
The cardinal, who was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006, has been besieged by criticism over his handling of some abuse cases in Pittsburgh and criticism over his denials of knowledge of McCarrick’s abuse.
Ciolek went public last week with information he’d learned of in a Diocese of Pittsburgh file on his 2004 testimony before Pittsburgh’s diocesan review board that showed Wuerl had been made aware of the allegation against McCarrick. Wuerl had in fact forwarded the allegation to the papal nunciature in Washington, the Vatican’s representative office to the U.S.
The first McCarrick allegations that came to light in June were limited to an almost five-decades-old accusation of abuse of a minor when McCarrick was a priest in the Archdiocese of New York. The charges also brought about the revelations of three allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago in the Diocese of Metuchen, where McCarrick was bishop from 1982 to 1986, and the Archdiocese of Newark, where he was archbishop from 1986 to 2000. Two of those allegations resulted in settlements.
Subsequently, two more allegations of abuse of a minor were revealed, along with McCarrick’s serial abuse of seminarians.
Journalists working to report on the abuse scandal have written that McCarrick’s abuse was a widely known secret in the Church and the media.
Wuerl has continually given the impression he lacked prior knowledge of McCarrick’s abuse since news broke June 20 of allegations against McCarrick sexually abusing a minor.
The following day Wuerl made a statement on the matter exclusive to his time in Washington, stating, ‘I can report that no claim – credible or otherwise – has been made against Cardinal McCarrick during his time here in Washington.’
A July 30 letter to Washington priests from the archdiocese’s vicar general likewise specifically stated that prior to the settlements being made public in June with the McCarrick allegations Wuerl knew nothing about payments made by two New Jersey dioceses in 2005 and 2007 to two men who’d been abused by McCarrick while they were in the seminary and after becoming priests.
Further, in a July 31 interview, he told his diocesan newspaper the Catholic Standard regarding reports of the rumors of McCarrick’s abuse that surfaced in the month since the first allegation, ‘I have seen some of those now public reports. But in my years here in Washington and even before that, I had not heard them.’
On August 14 Wuerl responded with a smile, ‘No, no,’ to a CBS reporter’s question of ‘Where you aware of the rumor that McCarrick was having relations with other priests?’
Former Papal Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò in his initial August 25, 2018 testimony had called Wuerl a liar for denying knowledge of McCarrick’s abuse.
‘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,’ Viganò stated. ‘The Cardinal’s… recent statements that he knew nothing about it … are absolutely laughable. He lies shamelessly.'”