PA--Victims respond to “self-serving” abuse apology

For immediate release: Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790314 645 5915 home, [email protected])

Today, the former head of the Pittsburgh Catholic diocese has written another page in his long, shrewd and depressingly semi-successful campaign to pose as a “reformer” on the church abuse and cover up crisis with his self-serving apology to a brave abuse survivor.

Decades late, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, now of Washington DC, has apologized to Tim Bendig who was sexually assaulted by a recently-deceased former Pittsburgh priest. We’re highly suspicious of Wuerl’s timing and motives. We believe Wuerl is really seeking to burnish his image and diminish the harm caused to Catholic officials by current investigations by law enforcement into bishops across Pennsylvania and how they have responded and are responding to clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis. We also suspect that Wuerl is posturing in case Washington DC’s City Council ever re-considers suspending the District’s predator-friendly statute of limitations (by appearing to be more sensitive to victims.)

We are sad but not surprised that Wuerl admits one widely-known and proven predator priest was, in fact, a predator. But it’s important to remember that there are at least 47 publicly accused child molesting Catholic clerics in the Pittsburgh diocese and 27 more in the Washington archdiocese. (See What’s Wuerl doing to make sure that some of them are prosecuted and that none of them are now around kids?     

More than nearly any other bishop (except maybe Cardinal Tim Dolan in New York and Cardinal Roger Mahony in Los Angeles), Wuerl has long been at the forefront of spinning his callous and irresponsible moves in child sex cases as somehow positive. We have long wished, and we wish now more than ever, he’d focus more on protecting of kids and their families rather than protecting himself and his peers.

But like a savvy politician, Wuerl is “playing to his base” and trying to reassure his flock that he’s a “good guy” on abuse, in advance of whatever disclosures Pennsylvania law enforcement officials may make at the end of their grand jury probe. 

If Wuerl really wants to be helpful, why won’t he do what 30 of his colleagues have done and post on church websites the names of proven, admitted and credibly accused predator priests? Making one adult feel better is good. Making thousands of kids safer is better. And Wuerl knows this. He knows that parents, police, prosecutors and parishioners need and deserve to have names of potentially dangerous clerics easily accessible. He knows that this protects the vulnerable, heals the wounded and deters more wrongdoing. But he refuses to take this simple, inexpensive, common sense step forward, no doubt fearing it will draw attention to how many secrets he and his brother bishops continue to recklessly keep, even at the risk of more boys and girls being sexually assaulted.

We admire Tim Bendig. His courage has protected others. We’re glad he feels good about Wuerl’s apology. We’re glad he asked Catholic officials to declare his abuse report credible. But we also feel like Wuerl is using Mr. Bendig for his own selfish reasons: to try and protect bishops’ reputations and do “damage control” in light of the pending grand jury investigations in to Pennsylvania’s Catholic officials. 

No matter what church officials do or don’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in churches or institutions – in Pennsylvania and Washington DC – to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell,[email protected])


Cardinal Wuerl apologizes to Pittsburgh victim of sex abuse

By Peter Smith,  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In his first year as the Roman Catholic bishop of Pittsburgh in 1988, Donald Wuerl publicly voiced doubts about a lawsuit filed by a former seminarian who claimed that when he was a boy, a priest had sexually abused him for years.

Despite the skepticism, now-Cardinal Wuerl did send the priest off for a psychiatric evaluation. The bishop became convinced soon enough that the allegations against the Rev. Anthony Cipolla were credible. He prevented the priest from . . . 

Read full story here

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