Cardinal Wuerl: I Wasn’t Told About Vatican Restrictions on McCarrick

Denying allegations made yesterday by Archbishop Vigano, Cardinal Wuerl’s spokesman said the cardinal was not advised about actions undertaken by the Holy See against his predecessor.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. (photo: CNA file photo)

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington has denied a report that he was informed about restrictions apparently placed by the Vatican upon his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

“Cardinal Wuerl did not receive documentation or information from the Holy See specific to Cardinal McCarrick’s behavior or any of the prohibitions on his life and ministry suggested by Archbishop Vigano,” the cardinal’s spokesman, Ed McFadden, told CNA.

On Aug. 25, Archbishop Carlo Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016, released a “testimony,”alleging that in 2009 or 2010, after receiving reports of habitual sexual misconduct on the part of Archbishop McCarrick, Pope Benedict XVI had ordered that “the Cardinal [McCarrick] was to leave the seminary where he was living, he was forbidden to celebrate [Mass] in public, to participate in public meetings, to give lectures, to travel, with the obligation of dedicating himself to a life of prayer and penance.”

Archbishop Vigano wrote it was “absolutely unthinkable” that Archbishop Pietro Sambi, nuncio at the time the restrictions were imposed, would not have informed Cardinal Wuerl about the restrictions placed upon Archbishop McCarrick, who was, according to D.C. sources, living at that time in Washington's Redemptoris Mater Seminary.

“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,” Archbishop Vigano added. The archbishop mentioned one specific interaction, in which he raised with Cardinal Wuerl a vocations promotional advertisement inviting young men to meet with Archbishop McCarrick. Wuerl, he said, immediately said he would cancel the ad.

Cardinal Wuerl does not dispute that he discussed with the archbishop a vocational promotion. However, according to McFadden, “Archbishop Vigano presumed that Wuerl had specific information that Wuerl did not have.”

While Archbishop McCarrick is reported to have moved from Redemptoris Mater Seminary, McFadden said that “Cardinal Wuerl categorically denies that he was ever provided any information regarding the reasons for Cardinal McCarrick’s exit for the Redemptoris Mater Seminary.”

A source close to the cardinal told CNA that Cardinal Wuerl had the impression some issues had arisen when Archbishop McCarrick left the seminary, but neither Archbishop McCarrick nor the apostolic nuncio spoke with him about the matter.

Archbishop Vigano offered a different account: “Cardinal Wuerl, well aware of the continuous abuses committed by Cardinal McCarrick and the sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict, transgressing the Pope’s order, also allowed him to reside at a seminary in Washington D.C. In doing so, he put other seminarians at risk.”

Archbishop McCarrick was removed from ministry on June 20, after the Archdiocese of New York deemed credible an allegation that he had serially sexually abused a teenage boy in the 1970s. Since that time, allegations have been made that Archbishop McCarrick serially sexually abused at least one other teenage boy, and that he sexually coerced and assaulted young priests and seminarians during his decades of priestly and episcopal ministry. On July 28, Archbishop McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals was accepted, and he awaits a Vatican trial.

A source close to Archbishop McCarrick’s case told CNA that when Cardinal Wuerl was informed that Archbishop McCarrick was being investigated for an allegation of sexual abuse, he requested that Archbishop McCarrick withdraw from public ministry, and Archbishop McCarrick refused. The source said that Cardinal Wuerl was not permitted by canon law to forbid Archbishop McCarrick from exercising ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington, and that Archbishop McCarrick has also refused requests from other Church leaders to avoid travel or ministry in their dioceses.

Archbishop Vigano’s “testimony” said that Cardinal Wuerl’s “recent statements that he knew nothing about it, even though at first he cunningly referred to compensation for the two victims, are absolutely laughable. The Cardinal lies shamelessly.”

Archbishop Vigano’s missive said that Archbishop McCarrick has exercised influence over Vatican figures for decades, saying that the archbishop has had particular influence over Pope Francis. He said that Archbishop McCarrick influenced several of the Pope’s recent episcopal appointments, among them the 2014 appointment of Cardinal Blase Cupich to the Archdiocese of Chicago and the 2016 appointment of Cardinal Joseph Tobin to the Archdiocese of Newark.

The archbishop’s letter said that “Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses, and resign along with all of them.”

The Vatican has not yet responded to Archbishop Vigano’s testimony.