Alleged abuse victims are “courageously stepping forward” with new claims of abuse by former cardinal and retired Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, but these claims weren’t previously known to the Archdiocese of Washington, the archdiocese said in a Sunday statement.
“These experiences shared by survivors are profoundly troubling and represent a breach of trust and wounding that no person should bear alone,” the archdiocese said July 29. “Cardinal Wuerl again recently affirmed that those coming forward with new allegations show also a confidence in the Church to take seriously these charges and act quickly in responding.”
The archdiocese voiced continued prayers for abuse survivors and expressed understanding about “how difficult it is to share such painful memories.”
“While the struggle to confront such experiences is difficult for survivors, the archdiocese wishes to accompany them and help them through this process,” its statement continued. “The archdiocese encourages all coming forward to share these experiences with any diocese in which they reside so that these grave issues can be reviewed promptly by Church authorities, and that we can offer assistance to begin the process for healing and peace.”
Pope Francis accepted Cardinal McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals on Friday. The Pope directed McCarrick, the 88-year-old former Archbishop of Washington, to observe “a life of prayer and penance in seclusion” until the end of the canonical process against him.
The fact that there had been a substantial and credible allegation of child sexual abuse against McCarrick was made public in June.
The archdiocese said that it reviewed its own files when the first claim against Archbishop McCarrick was filed in the New York archdiocese. The Washington archdiocese found “no complaints of any kind” against the archbishop, who had led the archdiocese from 2001-2006.
“Further, the confidential settlements involving acts by Archbishop McCarrick in the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark were not known previously to Cardinal Wuerl or the Archdiocese of Washington,” the statement said.
As CNA previously reported, last week the Washington archdiocese’s vicar general Monsignor Charles Antonicelli sent a letter to priests of the archdiocese claiming that its current archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, did not know until recently about settlements made by two New Jersey dioceses in response to allegations of misconduct on the part of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
Sources close to the Archdiocese of Washington also told CNA that Wuerl was not informed of legal settlements in two New Jersey dioceses until June 2018.
In recent weeks, McCarrick has faced several additional allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct. These include charges that he pressured seminarians and priests into sexual relationships.
Cardinal Wuerl said the decision to accept the cardinal’s resignation shows that Pope Francis “takes very seriously the allegation of an abuse of a minor.”
“I think this was a big step forward in trying to act quickly, decisively, even though the whole procedure isn’t concluded yet,” Cardinal Wuerl said told the Washington-area radio station WTOP Saturday. “The pope is saying that we need to show that we are hearing these things, paying attention and acting.”
Although the alleged abuse happened decades ago, he said, “people are now coming forward and saying, ‘I know I’m going to get a hearing in the Church’.”
“It’s encouraging people who have kept these things buried to step forward and say, ‘Even though this happened a long time ago, I want you to know it happened’,” said Wuerl.
Wuerl told WTOP he had never been approached with allegations that McCarrick committed abuse. He also said he was not aware of the decades-old rumors about McCarrick’s alleged misconduct.