Browsing News Entries

Cardinal Wuerl acknowledges he knew of one accusation against predecessor

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a second letter issued in mid-January about what he knew and didn't regarding abuse allegations involving his predecessor, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, Washington's retired archbishop, apologized Jan. 15 for what he called a "lapse of memory," clarifying that he knew of at least one abuse allegation against former U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, but he had "forgotten" about it.

In the letter sent to priests of the Archdiocese of Washington, Cardinal Wuerl acknowledged that he became aware of the allegation against now-Archbishop McCarrick after receiving a report in 2004 about a different allegation, but the "survivor also indicated that he had observed and experienced 'inappropriate conduct' by then-Bishop McCarrick."

The former cardinal is now an archbishop, having stepped down from the College of Cardinals in July 2018 following accusations that he abused minors in the past. Other accusations followed about inappropriate behavior with seminarians. He has denied the accusations, but the Vatican is reportedly considering whether to laicize him. He now is living in a Capuchin Franciscan friary in Kansas.

Cardinal Wuerl was bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 2004 and he said in the Jan. 15 letter that back then, he received a report from the Pittsburgh Diocesan Review Board, which reviews allegations of abuse, about a separate case and "at the conclusion of this report, the survivor indicated the 'inappropriate conduct'" he observed by McCarrick.

Previously, Cardinal Wuerl had said in a Jan. 12 letter that when "the allegation of sexual abuse of a minor was brought against Archbishop McCarrick, I stated publicly that I was never aware of any such allegation or rumors." But the context, he said, was in discussions about sexual abuse of minors, not adults. He said in the Jan. 15 letter that the survivor in the Pittsburgh case had asked that the matter be kept confidential, he heard no more about it, "I did not avert to it again," and "only afterwards was I reminded of the 14-year-old accusation of inappropriate conduct which, by that time, I had forgotten."

The latest letter from the cardinal came after the person who had brought up the "inappropriate conduct" allegations in Pittsburgh spoke with The Washington Post newspaper in mid-January to say that Cardinal Wuerl, indeed, knew about the concerns he had then voiced.  

Cardinal Wuerl, in the latest letter, said he apologized to this survivor "for any of the pain and suffering he endured" during the abuse he suffered, and also "from the actions of then-Bishop McCarrick."

He also said "it is important for me to accept personal responsibility and apologize for this lapse of memory. There was never the intention to provide false information."

Cardinal Wuerl has been under fire since an August 2018 report from a grand jury in Pennsylvania that painted a mixed record during his time as bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh as it pertained to handling abuse cases. The report has recently been under scrutiny, however, and since then there have been calls for the cardinal to step down from his current post.

Now 78, he had submitted his resignation to the Pope Francis when he turned 75, as required by canon law. The pope accepted it last fall and named Cardinal Wuerl as apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Washington; he' ll remain in the post until a successor is named.


- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

It’s Time for a Conclave — Not in Rome but in Washington!

By Msgr. Charles Pope | Note: I write this post with a certain degree of humor. I admit to a certain glee at the thought of locking our leaders in and gradually reducing their food supply until they reach a solution. In light...

A Documentary on How Rosary Changed Lives, How Saints Overcame Distraction During Prayer, and More!

By Tito Edwards | A Documentary Tells of the Change in the Lives of Those Who Pray the Rosary ☩ +1 How the Saints Overcame Distraction During Prayer ☩ Fr. Joseph M. Esper of Catholic...

Can Catholics Enjoy Alcohol?

By Kathy Schiffer | Temperance societies – social organizations which opposed drinking and drunkenness – were a powerful force in America by the late 19th century. In the early years of our nation's...

Marist Poll: Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Majorities Want More Abortion Restrictions

By Catholic News Agency | A new poll shows that while most Americans identify themselves as “pro-choice,” the vast majority of the same group support increased restrictions on abortion. The poll...

Why Did Cardinal Wuerl Lie About McCarrick? Here's What You Need to Know

By Joan Desmond | Last week, U.S. Catholics learned that Cardinal Wuerl knew that his disgraced predecessor, Theodore McCarrick, had faced allegations of sexual misconduct with seminarians back in 2004. And when Cardinal Wuerl...

Pro-Life Living: How Families Instill Affirming Values

By Patti Armstrong | The annual March for Life is a unique witness to life. But Catholic families are also instilling the pro-life message in children and young people through daily family life. How do...

Archbishop Lori Announces System to Report Allegations Against Baltimore Bishops

By Catholic News Agency | BALTIMORE — The Archdiocese of Baltimore introduced on Tuesday a third-party system for reporting allegations of abuse or misconduct against its archbishop and other bishops...

China’s Crackdown on Christians Continues

By CNA/EWTN News | BEIJING — A campaign by the Chinese government to “Sinicize” religion is ongoing, with detention and indoctrination of Muslims in the far west of the country and the closing of...

March for Life Works to Maintain Unity in a Time of Division

By Michelle La Rosa/CNA | WASHINGTON — Barring an unexpected resolution, the federal government shutdown will have hit the four-week mark when pro-lifers descend upon the nation’s capital for the...