Archdiocese deletes website defending Cardinal Wuerl’s handling of sex abuse
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WASHINGTON, D.C., August 15, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Archdiocese of Washington has deleted its website on “The Wuerl Record,” designed to defend its Cardinal Donald Wuerl as he faces scrutiny over his role in numerous clerical sex abuse cases during his time as Bishop of Pittsburgh.
“We created the site with the best intentions for it to serve as a resource and be helpful to the media with information,” Chieko Noguchi, director of Media and Public Relations for the archdiocese, told LifeSiteNews. “However, we heard the criticism from people about it and we took it down, and we are being transparent about why it was taken down.”
TheWuerlRecord.com now redirects visitors to the archdiocese’s press releases.
The original “Wuerl Record” website said it “highlights the child protection efforts of Cardinal Donald Wuerl during his tenure as the Bishop of Pittsburgh, from 1988 to 2006, and provides additional context not included in the [grand jury] report on Cardinal Wuerl’s work as a longtime advocate and voice on this issue.”
It contained a statement from Wuerl that read, partly:
While I served as Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and as our understanding of child sexual abuse increased, the Diocese worked to strengthen our response and repeatedly amended the Diocese’s safeguards and policies. The Diocese worked to meet or exceed the requirements of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the reporting requirements of Pennsylvania law. We showed pastoral concern by reaching out to victims and their families, while reporting allegations to the authorities so they could investigate crimes. The Diocese’s goal was to be transparent and accountable to the public, and to our faithful, for what had occurred within the Church.
Wuerl is mentioned in the 884-page grand jury report more than 200 times. The grand jurors found that Wuerl knew about accusations of pedophilia against priests but allowed them to remain in active ministry.
One case that is receiving much attention from Catholic media is that of Father George Zirwas, who was reported to the diocese as having molested underage boys. Some of these complaints were filed when Wuerl was bishop. Zirwas was later found to have 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,” according to the grand jury report.
After being shuffled around for years and still allowed to function as a priest, Fr. Zirwas eventually was put on a “leave of absence” and moved to Miami and then Cuba.
In 1996, he wrote to the Diocese of Pittsburgh saying he knew about illegal sexual activity being committed by other Pittsburgh priests. In exchange for this information, the predator priest wanted the money he was receiving from the Church to be increased.
Wuerl responded saying Zirwas was to either send him the names of these predator priests, or state the exact opposite of what Zirwas had just claimed – that he knew nothing about pedophile priests in the diocese.
Zirwas opted to recant his claim, and the amount of money he received monthly increased.