How Cardinal Wuerl sees a path forward from clergy abuse scandal

WASHINGTON — It was a turbulent week for the Catholic Church after a Pennsylvania grand jury report alleged a decadeslong, systematic cover-up of child sex abuse by more than 300 priests.

The Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, is named in the report for his management of so-called predator priests in the Pittsburgh diocese. Wuerl told WTOP how he believes the church can move forward from this scandal.

“I think there has been a loss of trust. What I proposed to our Conference of Bishops is … we need to put together some sort of board made up of lay people and bishops to whom any allegation will be brought,” he said.

The grand jury report identified more than 1,000 victims allegedly abused by priests over 70 years. Wuerl believes that creating a board of clergy and community members where abuse can be reported safely will foster the trust of potential victims seeking justice.

“To provide for them that sense that they are still very much a part of our spiritual family and that we need to be there for them spiritually, pastorally and provide whatever psychological support they need,” he said.

Wuerl is named hundreds of times throughout the grand jury’s report, as he was a bishop in the Pittsburgh diocese for 18 years and oversaw the discipline of offender priests. Read how he handled two specific priests’ cases in Pittsburgh here.

During his tenure there from 1988 to 2006, Wuerl said he implemented reforms he has carried over to the Archdiocese of Washington, including a zero-tolerance policy.

“Here, annually, we have a mass at the cathedral for all survivors of abuse and, in that mass, we always ask them and anybody else who knows of a survivor to have them come forward,” he said.

On Saturday, Wuerl withdrew from next week’s World Meeting of Families in Dublin, according to Reuters. He is the second senior cleric to pull out of the Roman Catholic event amid the recent sexual abuse scandals.

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Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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