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Cardinal Donald Wuerl Claire Chretien / LifeSiteNews
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Donald Wuerl expressed ‘great confidence’ in abuser priest’s salvation at 2001 funeral mass

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien Follow Claire

December 3, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – In a 2001 homily at the funeral of a sex abuser priest, then-Bishop Donald Wuerl assured the faithful that they could have “confidence” in the predator’s salvation.

Originally uncovered by Townhall’s Lauretta Brown in September, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article on Father George Zirwas’s death notes that even though the priest was “banned from ministry for undisclosed reasons in 1996,” now-Cardinal Wuerl “never had any hesitation” about offering Zirwas’s funeral Mass.

This summer’s Pennsylvania grand jury report revealed that the Diocese of Pittsburgh, formerly headed by Wuerl, received complaints Zirwas had molested underage boys. Some of the complaints were filed when Wuerl was the bishop of that diocese.

“The Grand Jury learned that the Diocese was aware of complaints against Zirwas for sexually abusing children as early as 1987,” the report says. “Additional complaints were received between 1987 and 1995. However, Zirwas continued to function as a priest during this period and was reassigned to several parishes.”

The grand jury ultimately found that Zirwas had been involved in manufacturing child porn based on religious imagery on Church property. He was part of a group of priests who “used whips, violence and sadism in raping their victims.”

After finally being placed on a leave of absence for “personal reasons” in November 1995, Zirwas moved to Florida and then Cuba. In Cuba, Zirwas was murdered – according to Church Militant, by a gay prostitute.

Brown noted:

“The one thing we know is that George Zirwas responded to God’s call” when he entered the priesthood, Wuerl argued. He also praised Zirwas’s “kindness.”

Perhaps most astonishingly, Wuerl said that the funeral liturgy “expresses great confidence that Father George will experience new life in Christ.” He then added that “those who knew him can pray with great confidence that ‘this priest who proclaimed the gospel…might now receive the fulfillment of that gospel, life everlasting.’”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article also reported that Wuerl praised the priest’s devotion to his family and his mother, and Wuerl “sought to comfort those among the more than 100 mourners who might have had fears about the state of [Zirwas’s] soul at death.”

“Zirwas, 47, was found strangled May 27 in the Havana house that he shared with a Cuban partner and a steady stream of English-speaking tourists who paid $15 a night to rent the spare bedroom,” the paper explained.

Wuerl was criticized heavily by Catholics and non-Catholics alike for not only his handling of sex abuse allegations in Pittsburgh but also his insistence that he knew nothing of his predecessor ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s predation toward seminarians.

Eventually, after Wuerl met with Pope Francis, the pontiff accepted the cardinal’s resignation in October. Wuerl had already submitted his resignation three years before when he turned 75, but Pope Francis hadn’t accepted it. Cardinal Wuerl remains apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. His replacement has not yet been named.

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