Cardinal Wuerl apologizes to priests, McCarrick victim, says he forgot he knew about harassment allegations

File under:  Are you freakin’ kidding me?  Insulated, monolithic, callous, tone deaf church power structure!

 

Cardinal Donald Wuerl speaks to media at St. Matthews Cathedral in Washington on Feb. 11, 2013.

By Michelle Boorstein

D.C.’s embattled Catholic leader, Donald Wuerl, under fire in recent days for untruthful statements regarding what he knew about the alleged sexual misconduct of his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick, apologized late Tuesday, saying he forgot he knew about the allegations and that it was “never the intention to provide false information.”

Wuerl apologized to former priest Robert Ciolek in the evening and then sent a letter to the priests of the archdiocese, where Wuerl is the acting administrator. Pope Francis received Wuerl’s retirement as archbishop earlier than expected last fall as the cardinal was being pummeled by criticism over his handling of abuse cases when he was the Pittsburgh bishop, and also by suspicions that he was not being fully honest about what he knew of the McCarrick scandal.

[Cardinal Wuerl’s letter to the priests]

In the letter, Wuerl said he forgot he was told in 2004 about Ciolek’s complaint against McCarrick. Wuerl in 2004 then took the complaint to the Vatican.

The ex-priest, in testimony then to the Pittsburgh Diocese’s Review Board, had said McCarrick pressured seminarians to sleep in double beds with him, requested and gave the subordinate unwanted back rubs and caused Ciolek trauma because he knew that Ciolek had been abused by clergy as a teen.

When Ciolek first went public last week with evidence that Wuerl had been untruthful since the scandal erupted last summer, Wuerl’s office issued a statement saying he had only been trying to protect Ciolek’s confidentiality. Then in a Saturday letter to the archdiocese’s priests, Wuerl repeated his claim that he was protecting confidentiality and said he had denied knowledge only as it pertained to allegations that McCarrick had abused children.

In the Tuesday night letter, Wuerl repeated versions of those defenses but said it didn’t matter.

“Nonetheless, 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,” the letter said.

He noted he had apologized to Ciolek, whose requests to meet Wuerl were rebuffed for several weeks prior. Ciolek had asked repeatedly to meet but was told no after negotiating with the archdiocese’s lawyer, who had suggested limits on the talk, such as no “interviewing” Wuerl, no recording and no note-taking, Ciolek told The Post. This was in the days before Ciolek went public with the fact that Wuerl knew in 2004.

“I wanted to apologize for any additional grief my failure might have also brought the survivor,” he wrote.

[Despite denials, D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl knew of sexual misconduct allegations against Theodore McCarrick and reported them to Vatican]

Ciolek Wednesday said he was up much of the night pondering what he said was a 45-minute talk with Wuerl. He wanted to take the call, he said, because he was still “holding out hope” that Wuerl would offer a frank admission and apology that would help heal Ciolek and restore some of Catholics’ distrust.

“In the end, it’s lacking in truth and substance. I do not believe for one moment that he forgot. I do not,” he said. Wuerl expressed what Ciolek called sincere sorry and regret for the clerics who abused and harassed him. “But substantively it doesn’t all add up. He’s shown himself to be better at expressing sorrow for actions of others. But he remains unable or unwilling to ackowledge the truth of his own actions.”

The married lawyer reached a settlement in 2005 with several New Jersey dioceses over abuse and harassment he says he suffered by three clerics as a teen and then in seminary. One of them was allegedly McCarrick.

The reaction of the D.C. Catholic community, weary after six months of scandal alleged by their current and last archbishops, wasn’t easy to predict.

Wuerl over the years was seen as an efficient and moderate, if bureaucratic, leader of the healthy, diverse archdiocese — until last summer, when McCarrick was suspended after allegedly groping an altar boy and questions arose about widespread rumors that McCarrick had been sexually harassing seminarians for years. Wuerl was also painted in a report by a Pennsylvania grand jury as not fully reliable in his handling of sex abuse. The report looked at hundreds of clerics.

A Washington Post investigation about the grand jury report found that while Wuerl built a reputation as an early advocate for removing pedophile priests from parishes, at times he allowed accused clerics to continue as priests in less visible roles without alerting authorities or other officials.

[Why don’t Catholic leaders who screw up just say they’re sorry?]

Wuerl’s apology comes at a key time. The Vatican is hoping to wrap up things related to the D.C. scandals before a first global meeting next month about clergy sex abuse and how to hold bishops and cardinals more accountable. Allegations that McCarrick abused several children and harassed many seminarians are being heard by a Vatican administrative trial, and some church lawyers think he might see his priestly status stripped. It’s possible Francis will decide a penalty, if any, for McCarrick. Wuerl’s successor is also to be named.

While Wuerl’s denials have centered on his claim that Ciolek requested confidentiality, documents from the time challenge the cardinal’s framework.

In 2004, Wuerl’s office asked Ciolek for permission to take his complaint about McCarrick to the Vatican. Ciolek wrote back that he would be fine with that but to please keep his name out of it, if possible. Either way, Ciolek wrote in approving the specific request, he was fine with his experience being told to church officials.

The Pittsburgh and D.C. dioceses in the past week have said this proves Wuerl was unable to come forward. But Ciolek’s 2004 request for his name to be kept out of it was specific to the request made by Pittsburgh. Church officials never asked him again for permission to speak publicly about his allegations, even in a general way, without his name. Wuerl issued several denials about having heard even rumors about McCarrick, even after Ciolek went public in July about his experience.

“Were you aware of rumors Cardinal McCarrick was having relationships with other priests?” CBS asked Wuerl in August. “No, no,” he says.

Complete Article HERE!

McCarrick accuser cooperates with NYC prosecutors on abuse

In this Nov. 14, 2011, file photo, then Cardinal Theodore McCarrick prays during the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual fall assembly in Baltimore. A lawyer says the key accuser in the sex abuse case against ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has met with New York City prosecutors, evidence that the scandal that has convulsed the papacy is now part of the broader U.S. law enforcement investigation into sex abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church.

By NICOLE WINFIELD

The key accuser in the sex abuse case against ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has met with New York City prosecutors, evidence that the scandal that has convulsed the papacy is now part of the broader U.S. law enforcement investigation into sex abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church.

James Grein gave testimony last month to Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Sara Sullivan, who is investigating a broad range of issues related to clergy abuse and the systematic cover-up by church superiors, Grein’s attorney, Patrick Noaker, told The Associated Press.

The development is significant, given that the Vatican investigation against McCarrick has already created a credibility crisis for the Catholic hierarchy including Pope Francis, since it was apparently an open secret that McCarrick slept with adult seminarians. Grein’s testimony, however, includes allegations that McCarrick, a former family friend, also groomed and abused him starting when he was 11.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office launched a hotline last year and invited victims to report even decades-old sex abuse, saying it would pursue “any and all investigative leads” to ensure justice.

Grein met with Sullivan before Christmas after filing a compensation claim with the New York City archdiocese alleging that McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington, first exposed himself when Grein was 11 and continued abusing him for some two decades, including during confession, Noaker said. The church’s compensation procedures require that victims notify the district attorney of their allegations, which Grein did on Nov. 1.

Noaker, however, said Grein’s testimony to Sullivan went beyond the required pro forma notification and covered issues related to a broader investigation.

On Dec. 27, Grein testified to Vatican investigators as part of the Holy See’s internal probe against McCarrick. That investigation has now finished and shifted to Rome, where a final verdict is expected within weeks, Vatican officials say.

McCarrick, who has also been accused by two other men in the Vatican investigation, faces possible defrocking if Francis determines the accusations against him are credible.

Criminal charges in New York City against McCarrick are unlikely for any actual abuse, due to the statute of limitations, Noaker said. But Grein’s testimony could still prove useful as prosecutors investigate patterns of abuse, conspiracy and cover-up over decades by Catholic leaders.

A law enforcement official familiar with the New York City investigation said it was separate from the one announced in September by then-New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood, who subpoenaed all eight dioceses in New York state. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation.

Underwood, who has since been replaced, took action along with prosecutors in a dozen U.S. states after a Pennsylvania grand jury alleged that more than 1,000 children were molested by 300 priests over 70 years in six dioceses of that state alone.

The state attorney general’s office is pursuing a civil investigation but has also reached out to local prosecutors authorized to convene grand juries or pursue criminal investigations.

Separately, the U.S. Justice Department has told every Catholic diocese in the country not to destroy documents or confidential archives relating to abuse investigations and the transfers of priests.

McCarrick was ordained a priest in New York City in 1958 and served as an auxiliary bishop to New York’s then-Cardinal Terence Cooke before being named bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, in 1981. It was during his years as a New York City priest — in the early 1970s — that he allegedly groped a teenage altar boy in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. That accusation launched the internal church investigation.

After the New York City archdiocese found the accusation credible and announced that McCarrick had been removed from public ministry, Grein and former seminarians came forward to say that McCarrick molested them as well. Francis removed McCarrick as a cardinal in July.

McCarrick denied the initial groping allegation of the altar boy and has said, through his lawyer, that he looks forward to his right to due process.

A former priest from the Metuchen diocese, Robert Ciolek, has also publicly accused McCarrick of inappropriate behavior while he was a seminarian and formalized the accusation in a 2004 complaint to Pittsburgh church officials.

In the past week, the archdioceses of Pittsburgh and Washington confirmed that then-Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl forwarded the complaint to the Vatican embassy at the time — disproving Wuerl’s claim that he hadn’t heard of allegations against McCarrick until last year.

Francis recently accepted the resignation of now-Cardinal Wuerl as archbishop of Washington after his credibility suffered as a result of the McCarrick scandal and allegations about his tenure in Pittsburgh in the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

Complete Article HERE!

Opus Dei paid $977,000 to settle sexual misconduct claim against prominent Catholic priest

Father John McCloskey of the Catholic Information Center, talks in 2002 with a priest at the University of Notre Dame, not pictured, about sex scandals within the Catholic Church on NBC’s ”Meet the Press” in Washington.

By Michelle Boorstein

The global Catholic community Opus Dei in 2005 paid $977,000 to settle a sexual misconduct suit against the Rev. C. John McCloskey, a priest well-known for preparing for conversion big-name conservatives — Newt Gingrich, Larry Kudlow and Sam Brownback, among others.

The woman who filed the complaint is a D.C.-area Catholic who was among the many who received spiritual direction from McCloskey through the Catholic Information Center, a K Street hub of Catholic life in downtown Washington. She told The Washington Post that McCloskey groped her several times while she was going to pastoral counseling with him to discuss marital troubles and serious depression.

The guilt and shame over the interactions sent her into a tailspin and, combined with her existing depression, made it impossible for her to work in her high-level job, she said. She spoke to him about her “misperceived guilt over the interaction” in confession and he absolved her, she said.

“I love Opus Dei but I was caught up in this coverup — I went to confession, thinking I did something to tempt this holy man to cross boundaries,” she said. The Post does not name victims of sexual assault without their consent.

The disclosure of the complaint and settlement were not made public by Opus Dei until Monday but behind the scenes, the ministry of the well-known priest had been sharply curtailed. Many Washington-area Catholics have wondered for years what happened to McCloskey, who was the closest thing to a celebrity the Catholic Church had in the region.

One other woman told Opus Dei that “she was made uncomfortable by how he was hugging her,” Brian Finnerty, an Opus Dei spokesman said Monday night. He said Opus Dei is also investigating a third claim — so far unsubstantiated — that he called potentially “serious.” He declined to provide details but said the woman “may have also suffered from misconduct by Father McCloskey” at the D.C. center, which is a bookstore, chapel and gathering place for conservative Catholics in particular.

In a statement, Opus Dei Vicar Monsignor Thomas Bohlin said McCloskey’s actions at the center were “deeply painful for the woman” who made the initial complaint “and we are very sorry for all she suffered.”

Bohlin’s statement, which came after the woman requested Opus Dei go public in an effort to reach other potential victims, said McCloskey was removed from his job at the center a year after the complaint, when it was found to be credible.

“All harassment and abuse are abhorrent,” Bohlin wrote. “I am painfully aware of all that the Church is suffering, and I am very sorry that we in Opus Dei have added to it. Let us ask God to show mercy on all of us in the Church at this difficult time.”

After leaving Washington after the complaints, McCloskey was sent to England, and then Chicago and California for assignments with Opus Dei. The woman in the settlement said she was told by church officials in Chicago when he was sent there that McCloskey would not be allowed to “get faculties” — or permission to fully function as a priest — and would be put on a very tight leash.

She became worried last year when she came into contact with someone else who knew about McCloskey and heard he may have been working as a priest in California.

In the statement Monday, Opus Dei said that after the settlement, McCloskey was told to only give spiritual direction to women in the confessional — meaning separated physically from them. In Opus Dei, a traditional community of Catholics, that is the norm for priests working with those they are counseling. McCloskey had an unusually public, free role at the Information Center.

In interviews in 2014, McCloskey was identified as working in “spiritual direction and pastoral ministry.” In a 2014 piece for the Jesuit magazine America, he said he was a “spiritual consultant.”

As a result, the woman in the settlement said, a lack of clarity about McCloskey’s role all these years haunted her, and she wants to be sure any other women potentially harmed by the priest know they aren’t alone and can get help.

McCloskey, who is now in his 60s, recently moved back to the D.C. region, where he has family. Opus Dei said Monday that he “suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s. He is largely incapacitated and needs assistance for routine daily tasks. He has not had any pastoral assignments for a number of years and is no longer able to celebrate Mass, even privately.”

The woman, who remains close to Opus Dei and participates in some of their spiritual activities, said Monday she was grateful to them for going public. She is now in her mid-50s, and was 40 when the incidents with McCloskey occurred.

“I’m very happy with how it’s being handled right now. They listened,” she said.

When she first reported McCloskey’s actions in the early 2000s, she said, she did so in a confessional with an Opus Dei priest in Virginia. The priest told her not to tell anyone else, including any other priests, “so he could fix it,” she said.

Later, an Opus Dei priest tried to help her, she said, encouraging her to seek medical and legal assistance.

Finnerty said the settlement for McCloskey is the only sexual misconduct settlement Opus Dei has ever paid out in the United States. The group received a special contribution specifically for it, he said. He would not name the donor.

Before becoming a priest, McCloskey worked for Citibank and Merrill Lynch on Wall Street, according to media reports. He was ordained a priest of Opus Dei in the early 1980s. He went on to become a successful author and religious commentator on television and radio, including the Catholic station EWTN.

In a 2011 piece by the Catholic News Agency celebrating 30 years as a priest, McCloskey said God had used him “as an instrument in spite of myself to bring dozens of vocations to the priesthood, religious life and to the new ecclesial movements, and all this with my evident faults and human failings.”

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic Bishops Still Don’t Get It

Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago (pictured) to be part of the organizing committee for the Vatican’s global bishops meeting to address clerical sexual abuse taking place in February

by Timothy D. Lytton

Recent revelations that U.S. bishops are still concealing allegations of clergy sexual abuse made headlines this past summer and again this Christmas season. A grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania found that bishops in that state failed to report abuse committed by 300 priests against 1,000 children. A report by the Illinois attorney general concluded that bishops in the state withheld the names of more than 500 priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

The U.S. Catholic hierarchy is once again asking forgiveness and promising reforms to earn back the trust of parishioners and the American public. Bishops from across the country are meeting north of Chicago during the first week of January for a spiritual retreat of quiet reflection to “seek wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit” and to “pray for the survivors of sexual abuse.” A few weeks later, in February, the presidents of bishops’ conferences around the world will gather in Rome for a Vatican summit on the crisis to launch “a worldwide reform.”

This pattern of periodic revelations of coverup followed by expressions of remorse and promises of reform is a familiar one – and it is likely to persist so long as the Catholic hierarchy continues to blame the scandal on the sexual misconduct of priests rather than the lack of accountability for their own duplicity.

History of Coverup

Personnel files in dioceses around the U.S. contain allegations of sexual misconduct against priests dating back to the 1930s. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops discussed the problem in closed-door meetings starting in the 1970s. Every U.S. bishop knew about the problem, but not one of them reported it to criminal justice authorities.

The scandal first came to light when a lawsuit against a Louisiana diocese filed by victims of a serial child molester Father Gilbert Gauthe made national headlines in 1984 and prompted other victims to speak out. In response, the bishops dedicated an entire day of their semiannual conference to examining the psychological, legal, and moral aspects of clergy sexual abuse. They issued public apologies, expressed empathy for victims, and instituted reforms.

The crisis flared up again eight years later in 1992, when sexual abuse victims publicly exposed Father James Porter, who molested more than 100 known victims between the ages of 6 and 14, and whose predations were well known among his colleagues and superiors within the Church. Again, the bishops dedicated a day of their annual conference to the issue and adopted a nonbinding set of Five Principles to respond to the crisis, pledging prompt response to allegations, removal of accused priests, increased reporting to law enforcement, victim outreach, and greater official transparency. An ad hoc committee issued a three-volume report called Restoring Trust.

In 2002, the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reports again

Cardinal Bernard Law became a symbol of the Catholic Church’s systematic protection of pedophile priests.

shined a spotlight on the bishops’ coverup of clergy sexual abuse. The most egregious offender in this round of revelations was Father John Geoghan, who reportedly abused more than 800 victims over a 33-year period. His crimes were concealed by no fewer than six bishops, including Cardinal Bernard Law, the archbishop of Boston and arguably the most powerful figure in the U.S. Catholic Church. Once again, the bishops issued apologies and published new reforms in the Charter for the Protection of Children & Young People, a binding policy that proclaimed “zero tolerance” for clergy sexual abuse within the Church.

Fathers Gauthe, Porter, and Geoghan were merely poster children for the scandal. By the bishops’ own reckoning, diocesan files contained sexual abuse allegations against 4,392 priests by 10,667 victims between 1950 and 2002. Lawsuits forced the bishops to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to victims, and ongoing revelations of coverup eroded the U.S. Catholic hierarchy’s moral authority.

Bishops Deflect Blame

Through it all, and still today, the bishops have attempted to deflect blame for the crisis onto others -portraying themselves as the victims of unfair media coverage and a popular culture that has corrupted the Church.

In response to the Illinois attorney general report, Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, issued a statement expressing “profound regret for our failures to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse” followed by a reminder that “the vast majority of abuses took place decades ago.” Translation: we’re very sorry for the misdeeds of our predecessors.

Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, New York, issued a statement in response to the Pennsylvania grand jury investigation explaining that “I do not see how we can avoid what is really at the root of this crisis: sin and a retreat from holiness” – by which he meant disregard of “our Church teaching [that] it is a grave sin to be ‘sexually active’ outside of a real marriage covenant.”


 
He went on to lament that “contemporary culture in our part of the world now holds it normative that sex and sexual gratification between any consenting persons for any reason that their free wills allow is perfectly acceptable,” and he called for “a culture of chastity” to “drive the evil behaviors among us from the womb of the Church.” Translation: the real sin here is not the misconduct of church officials but contemporary attitudes towards sexuality that have eroded traditional values and corrupted the clergy.

To be fair, children are safer as a result of reforms implemented by Church officials in response to the scandal. The Church no longer provides a safe hunting ground for predators like Gauthe, Porter, and Goeghan, who abused dozens or hundreds of victims over decades.

However, so long as the bishops continue to focus on the failings of others and on fighting culture wars, rather than removing bishops who conceal crimes and transforming the culture of impunity within the Catholic hierarchy, the clergy sexual abuse scandal will not go away.

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic Church in Illinois Withheld Names of at Least 500 Priests Accused of Abuse, Attorney General Says

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, center, the archbishop of Chicago. “I want to express again the profound regret of the whole church for our failures to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse,” he said in a statement.

By Laurie Goodstein and Monica Davey

The Catholic Church in Illinois withheld the names of at least 500 priests accused of sexual abuse of minors, the state’s attorney general said Wednesday in a scathing report that accused the church of failing victims by neglecting to investigate their allegations.

The preliminary report by Attorney General Lisa Madigan concludes that the Catholic dioceses in Illinois are incapable of investigating themselves and “will not resolve the clergy sexual abuse crisis on their own.”

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, said in a statement, “I want to express again the profound regret of the whole church for our failures to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse.

“It is the courage of victim-survivors that has shed purifying light on this dark chapter in church history.”

Ms. Madigan, a Democrat who served four terms as Illinois’ attorney general and is the daughter of the state’s powerful and longtime speaker of the House, is days away from leaving office. She chose not to run again.

Kwame Raoul, a fellow Democrat who will replace Ms. Madigan in January, said he was committed to continuing the investigation Ms. Madigan had begun. He said he would work closely with prosecutors around the state on the issue.

“Today’s news demonstrates the need for ongoing diligence in investigating crimes against children taking place within institutions that do not have a history of unilateral, proactive transparency,” he said in a statement, in which he praised Ms. Madigan for initiating the investigation.

Complete Article HERE!