Cardinal Wuerl Defends Himself In Light Of Pennsylvania Sexual Abuse Report

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter
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  • Pennsylvania releases massive report on sexual abuse in six dioceses, identifying more than 300 accused “predator priests.”
  • Wuerl published a statement before its release, preemptively defending his actions as former bishop of Pittsburgh.
  • Critics question Wuerl’s attempts to distance himself from the scandal over Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s alleged abuses.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl issued a statement Tuesday defending his past actions as bishop of Pittsburgh in light of Pennsylvania’s newly released church sexual abuse report.

Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., published his statement preemptively, saying he knew the report would be critical of some of his actions but that he hoped a “just assessment” would find that he acted “diligently” to prevent child sexual abuse. Wuerl claimed that during his tenure as bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 through 2006, he enacted a zero-tolerance policy and was active in caring for victims and their families. (RELATED: Grand Jury Report Details Decades Of Child Abuse By Hundreds Of Accused ‘Predator Priests’)

“It moved me not simply to address these acts, but to be fully engaged, to meet with survivors and their families, and to do what I could to bring them comfort and try to begin a process for healing,” Wuerl said of learning about past instances of sexual abuse when he became bishop of Pittsburgh, according to Crux Now.

“As I have made clear throughout my more than 30 years as a bishop, the sexual abuse of children by some members of the Catholic Church is a terrible tragedy, and the Church can never express enough our deep sorrow and contrition for the abuse, and for the failure to respond promptly and completely.

‘While I understand this Report may be critical of some of my actions, I believe the Report confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse. I sincerely hope that a just assessment of my actions, past and present, and my continuing commitment to the protection of children will dispel any notions otherwise made by this report,” Wuerl’s statement reads, according to CBS.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court released an edited version of the grand jury report on child sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy in six dioceses Tuesday afternoon.

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro told reporters that the report details “systematic coverup by senior church officials in Pennsylvania and at the Vatican,” according to The Washington Post.

As an example, Shapiro detailed how a group of four priests in the Diocese of Pittsburgh systematically targeted, groomed and marked boys for future molestation.

“To make it easier to target their victims, the priests gave their favored boys gifts — gold crosses to wear as necklaces. The crosses were markings of which boys had been groomed for abuse,” Shapiro said, according to CBS.

Those priests also developed and distributed child pornography on church grounds, according to Shapiro.

Of the 301 accused “predator priests” identified in the report, 99 of them were from the diocese of Pittsburgh.

Wuerl also recently defended himself from being connected to the scandal surrounding Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who has been accused of sexually abusing several young seminarians as well as the first child he ever baptized. McCarrick was Wuerl’s predecessor as the archbishop of Washington, D.C.

Wuerl commissioned a review of McCarrick’s tenure in D.C. to show that no complaints of abuse had been filed against McCarrick during that time.

“Based on that review, I can report that no claim, credible or other wise, has been against Cardinal McCarrick during his time here in Washington,” Wuerl wrote, according to WTOP.

Wuerl also claimed he had been unaware of the rumors about McCarrick and was surprised about the abuse allegations. Critics called into question whether his ignorance and surprise were in fact genuine, given the fact that McCarrick made financial settlements with two seminarians whom he allegedly abused.

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