Church officials have confirmed that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, retired archbishop of Washington, had forwarded an allegation of sexual misconduct against his predecessor, former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, to the papal nuncio in Washington in 2004.
In a January 10 statement, the Archdiocese of Washington said Cardinal Wuerl, who at the time was bishop of Pittsburgh, “received no further information regarding the matter” involving the former cardinal.
Then-Bishop Wuerl’s action came after Robert Ciolek, a former priest of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, filed a complaint with the Pittsburgh Diocese saying he had been abused as a seminarian by a Pittsburgh priest. The abuse was alleged to have occurred by the priest assigned to the faculty of Mount St Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where Ciolek was studying at the time, the Washington Archdiocese said.
During a November 2004 appearance before the Independent Review Board of the Pittsburgh Diocese to discuss the incident involving the priest, Ciolek also addressed his alleged abuse by Archbishop McCarrick in New Jersey, according to the diocese’s statement. “This was the first time the Diocese of Pittsburgh learned of this allegation,” the statement said.
Ciolek sought confidentiality at the time, both the Washington Archdiocese and Pittsburgh Diocese said. After notifying Archbishop Montalvo, then-Bishop Wuerl “adhered to Mr Ciolek’s request for confidentiality”, the Washington Archdiocese’s statement said.
Archbishop McCarrick resigned as a cardinal in July 2018 after public reports of alleged sexual misconduct involving seminarians and a minor. Ciolek asked the Pittsburgh Diocese for permission to review the file containing his complaint and during his review in December he discovered the file shows that Cardinal Wuerl knew of his allegations against Archbishop McCarrick, The Washington Post reported on January 10. He subsequently approached the newspaper with his findings.
During the summer, as the reports of Archbishop McCarrick’s alleged misconduct became public, Cardinal Wuerl denied knowing of any complaints against the former archbishop of Washington. The Washington Archdiocese’s statement, however, said Cardinal Wuerl was referring to claims of sexual abuse of a minor by Archbishop McCarrick.
“Cardinal Wuerl has attempted to be accurate in addressing questions about Archbishop McCarrick,” the archdiocese said, adding “the cardinal stands by those statements, which were not intended to be imprecise.”
The archdiocese said neither it nor Cardinal Wuerl was aware that Ciolek had reached a settlement with the Diocese of Metuchen over the abuse claim. The Pittsburgh Diocese’s statement said it did not learn it was included in the settlement until July 2018.
Ciolek told the Washington Post that even though he earlier wanted to remain unnamed, Cardinal Wuerl could have acknowledged last summer what he knew about the allegations involving Archbishop McCarrick.
Vatican officials are currently investigating the misconduct allegations against Archbishop McCarrick and have heard testimony from his accusers. Archbishop McCarrick, who has denied allegations against him, now lives in a Capuchin Franciscan friary in Victoria, Kansas.