According to CNN, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has accused the Arch Bishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, of lying in an effort to defend himself amid the scrutiny and criticism he has faced in the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, which accuses more than 300 Catholic priests in the state of child sexual abuse and provides details of the decades worth of assaults.
The grand jury report is particularly critical of Wuerl, who was the bishop of Pittsburgh for a period of 18 years, during which time he allegedly helped to cover up and bury reports of the ongoing abuse initiated by various priests in the state.
After the Pennsylvania grand jury report was first released on Tuesday, Wuerl issued a statement, claiming that the report proves that he “acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse.”
Attorney General Shapiro, however, holds a very different of opinion on Wuerl’s role in the abuse scandal. “Cardinal Wuerl is not telling the truth,” Shapiro insisted. “Many of his statements in response to the Grand Jury Report are directly contradicted by the Church’s own documents and records from their Secret Archives.”
“Offering misleading statements now only furthers the cover up,” he said, adding that Wuerl “should heed the words of Pope Francis who validated our work in Pennsylvania and support the recommendations of the Grand Jury.”
In a recent interview following the release of the report, Wuerl claimed, “I think I did everything that I possibly could.” The grand jury report, however, details abuse allegations in Wuerl’s own diocese in Pittsburgh and reveals that the children who were victims of such abuse were “brushed aside” in order to protect the Catholic church as an institution.
One priest from the Pittsburgh diocese, by the name of Father Richard Zula, was arrested on 130 counts child sex abuse in 1988, after taking a leave of absence the year before. While Zula was dismissed from the church and arrested before Wuerl began serving as bishop there, he ended up authorizing a $900,000 settlement to two of Zula’s victims nearly a year later in 1989.
Wuerl also allowed the Pittsburgh diocese to hire a physician to help reduce Zula’s prison sentence, who wrote a statement essentially blaming Zula’s victims for his own criminal behavior.
Additionally, Wuerl and his diocese were aware of the predatory behavior and abuse conducted by the hands of Father George Zirwas. Wuerl received several complaints about Zirwas from 1988 to 1995. Despite these series of allegations, Zirwas was not removed from the ministry during that time. “If there were allegations, we dealt with them immediately,” Wuerl insisted.
The grand jury report, however, concluded that “Wuerl’s statements” were “meaningless without any action.”