Editorial: Cardinal Donald Wuerl's lies come to light
Sometimes Cardinal Donald Wuerl concealed the truth of sexual abuses in “secret archives.” Sometimes he didn’t acknowledge. Sometimes he stayed silent.
But now we know the former bishop of Pittsburgh didn’t just commit sins of omission. Now we know that he took a commandment and snapped it like a twig.
It was number 9. “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”
He lied about the man who ran D.C.’s churches before him, Theodore McCarrick. The church settled a lawsuit in 2005 with a former priest who reported abuse and misconduct by clergy including McCarrick. He is the highest-ranking Catholic leader to fall amid allegations he groped an altar boy.
“There have also been numerous stories or blog posts that repeated long-standing rumors or innuendos that may be out there regarding Archbishop McCarrick. ...In the past month, 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,” Wuerl told the Catholic Standard in July 2018.
And that is a lie. He knew while Pittsburgh’s bishop. He knew because he reported to Gabriel Montalvo, then the Vatican ambassador, about the victim, Robert Ciolek, who told the Washington Post he recently learned the Pittsburgh diocese has a file with Wuerl’s account of that exchange, accompanied by the bishop’s initials.
“With rumors — especially old rumors going back 30, 40, even 50 years — there is not much we can do unless people come forward to share what they know or what they experienced,” Wuerl said in the Catholic Standard interview.
He said it just weeks before the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released with the names of hundreds of credibly accused predator priests and the litany of bishops, including 169 mentions of Wuerl’s name, who kept them from justice. Another lie.
He said he knew nothing of settlements. He lied again.
He said he was “shocked” when the altar boy allegation was made public. More lies.
Those actions, as the Vatican knew then and American Catholics are just learning now, were lies.
They were the bearing of false witness. They protected the church and they protected McCarrick and they protected Wuerl himself, and they minimized what he knew to have happened.
And as long as the lies are offered until proven false, the church will continue to lose faith among the faithful.