A journalist recently suggested to me that DC Archbishop Donald Wuerl was "less dirty" on abuse than the other US prelates who will attende the papal conclave. "Not so fast," I replied.
Wuerl, like his colleagues Tim Dolan and Roger Mahony, could be called the "teflon bishop." Little about his poor record on clergy sex crimes sticks to him.
In a particularly egregious example, in 2010 he let Fr. Walter Salisbury – a priest who had been convicted twice of abusing children – move quietly to Maine and continue working there, without any warning whatsoever. This, in effect, gave Fr. Salisbury new “hunting grounds.”
Wuerl has also refused to take the simple step of posting the names of credibly accused priests on his diocesan website. He has refused in both Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh, his former posting.
On top of this, Wuerl has constantly displayed a general disregard for survivors of abuse. In particular, in 2010 Wuerl honored Cardinal Dario Hoyos, a Vatican official who was infamous for his hurtful claims about abuse victims and who once sent a letter to French bishop Pierre Pican, thanking him for hiding a sexually abusive priest from authorities. Despite knowing that Cardinal Hoyos was a polarizing figure and hurtful to victims, Wuerl honored him anyway.
Years ago, Wuerl fought to defrock a predatory Pittsburgh priest. Around 2002, Wuerl and his PR team exploited this one incident as evidence that he was somehow "ahead of the curve" on the abuse crisis. At a time when many were feeling dreadfully disillusioned - and deseperately sought some sign that some bishop wasn't so corrupt - this spin worked wonders. But a more careful look at Wuerl's track record shows he's really no different from most of his brother bishops in dealing with clergy sex crimes and cover ups.