The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, formerly the power base of serial abuser ‘Uncle Ted’ McCarrick, is the most discredited in the United States. And it intends to stay that way.
As the new Catholic publication the Pillar revealed on Wednesday, it’s planning to bung $2 million in the direction of ex-Cardinal McCarrick’s successor and protégé, Cardinal Donald Wuerl. And this at a time when parishes and schools all over America are facing closure, and Washington is reportedly facing ‘an unfunded liability of at least $35 million’.
The decision to allocate a fat chunk of money to Wuerl is astonishing. Here’s some background.
Wuerl was forced to resign as archbishop of Washington in 2018 after a ‘lapse of memory’ about his old friend’s McCarrick’s sexual activities.
Well, lapse of memory is one way of putting it. Wuerl’s priests in Washington used another word. In 2019, the Washington Post reported that, when Wuerl was bishop of Pittsburgh in 2004, he was informed of allegations about McCarrick and passed them on to the Vatican. Yet, weeks earlier, Wuerl had denied knowing anything about Uncle Ted’s behavior until the scandal broke in 2018.
Pope Francis — much to his annoyance — had to accept his ally Wuerl’s resignation because Washington clergy made it clear that they wouldn’t work for under an archbishop they regarded as dishonest. Wuerl has never been accused of any sexual impropriety, but his own master of ceremonies at St Matthew’s Cathedral refused to serve Mass for him. And so Francis had to drop his plan to keep Wuerl in office even though he’d passed the retirement age of 75.
Local clergy weren’t the only ones disgusted by the smooth-talking prelate’s ‘lapse of memory’ and other inexcusable failures. The Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry, Pennsylvania, is now just the North Catholic High School — it changed its name after Wuerl was criticized by a Pennsylvania grand jury over his handling over other sex cases when he was in Pittsburgh.
Ave Maria Press scrapped plans to publish Wuerl’s book What Do You Want to Know? A Pastor’s Response to the Most Challenging Questions About the Catholic Faith. It didn’t want to be associated with a cardinal who put so much effort into dodging challenging questions about the abuse of minors.
And now we learn that, according to its own financial records, Washington diocese has set aside $2,012,639 for Wuerl’s ‘ministry activities’ in retirement.
This is the same diocese that, under Wuerl, made lavish provisions for the retirement of Ted McCarrick, even though Pope Benedict XVI had ordered McCarrick to retire from active ministry after hearing rumors of his beach-house molestation of seminarians.
Wuerl knew about these clearly inadequate restrictions — but he was still suffering from that pesky ‘lapse of memory’ about any wrongdoing by his predecessor, so he allowed McCarrick to roam free and retain control of hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to his personal charity, the Archbishop’s Fund. And, as soon as Francis was elected, McCarrick was back in favor, flying around the world as the Pope’s emissary to help negotiate, among other things, the despicable deal with Beijing.
History seems to be repeating itself. Incredibly, Pope Francis chose another McCarrick protégé, the deeply unimpressive Wilton Gregory, to replace Wuerl. And Gregory, now a cardinal, is permitting his disgraced predecessor to feather his nest.
It seems that no scandal can penetrate the layers of smug self-regard and back-slapping corruption surrounding the Archdiocese of Washington. Not under this pontificate, anyway.
Read the Pillar article and note all the questions the archdiocesan spokesman is refusing to answer. What activities are these new funds intended to support? Will Cardinal Wuerl be playing any pastoral role in the life of the archdiocese? Is it true that he recently conducted a retreat for US bishops?
Then there are questions that have been outstanding for months. The archdiocese is refusing to disclose what happened to the vast sums distributed by McCarrick from his Archbishop’s Fund. Likewise, it won’t say whether Cardinal Gregory is planning to investigate allegations of financial wrongdoing by McCarrick. For example, did McCarrick use his fund to settle a sexual abuse claim dating back to his time as bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey?
There’s speculation that some of the $2,012,639 earmarked for Wuerl was raised by the retired cardinal himself. In which case, says my source, ‘it sounds awfully like McCarrick’s Archbishop’s Fund’. (One detail worth pondering: when McCarrick was finally disgraced, he turned over control of the fund to his successor, Donald Wuerl.)
You see what I mean by history repeating itself.
You’d think there are grounds here for a federal investigation. Then again, Cardinal Gregory — a diehard member of the US bishops’ liberal faction – perhaps has less reason to worry than he did before last November. He’s on excellent terms with one of the most conspicuously ‘devout’ members of his flock, Joe Biden.