If Wuerl Keeps His Job, Then the Catholic Church’s “Zero Tolerance” Policy is a Sham

On Tuesday afternoon, the Pennsylvania attorney general released a shocking and sickening grand jury report documenting hundreds of cases of sexual crimes against minors committed by Catholic clergy in six Catholic dioceses over the course of 70 years, mostly before the sex-abuse crisis rocked the Boston archdiocese in 2002. We’ve read enough of the report that we cannot fathom why Cardinal Wuerl, who served as bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006, has not resigned or been removed by Pope Francis yet.

The Washington Post reports:

“[I]n 1998, when doctors said that William P. O’Malley III hadn’t had sexual contact with a minor since 1982 and recommended that he be returned to ministry, Wuerl gave him a church job, the grand jury said. O’Malley kept appearing in clerical attire and celebrating Mass in public, although he had been banned from doing both. Yet instead of punishing him, Wuerl approved the diocese lending him more than $37,000 to cover debts he had incurred. Victims later came forward alleging O’Malley had abused them in 1998 and 1999—after Wuerl had returned him to ministry.”

The case is presented in greater detail on pages 724 to 727 of the grand jury report. “On December 12, 1997, Diocesan officials interviewed an adult male who advised that he was sexually abused by O’Malley when he was approximately 11 to 12 years of age. He stated that O’Malley provided him with alcohol and then after he went to bed, O’Malley got into bed with him, removed his shorts, and fondled his genitals,” according to the grand jury. “When interviewed about the allegation made on December 12, 1997, O’Malley stated that the incident ‘probably happened’ and that ‘kids were around all the time.'”

A spokesman for the archdiocese of Washington tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that O’Malley was reported to the civil authorities but could not be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations: “Based on the information provided by the diocese of Pittsburgh, all of the allegations against O’Malley were reported to the civil authorities, and O’Malley was never returned to ministry with minors following the first allegation of abuse.”

This is not the only case in which Wuerl allowed priests who had been sexual predators to continue some form of ministry—see, for example, the horrific case of a priest named George Zirwas in this Washington Examiner report.

But if “zero tolerance” means anything, shouldn’t the one case cited above be enough for Wuerl to resign or be removed? The priest admitted he “probably” molested an 11- or 12-year-old boy, Wuerl returned the priest to a job where he wasn’t supposed to have contact with minors, and the priest continued to sexually abuse minors.

If leadership means anything and if “zero tolerance” means anything, the fact that a psychiatrist recommended the priest be returned to ministry should not be an excuse for Wuerl to remain in his role. If “zero tolerance” means anything, Wuerl should not get to remain a cardinal or a bishop because he responded appropriately to most cases of sexual abuse. If “zero tolerance” means anything, a single case in which Wuerl—or any other bishop—allowed the return of a known child molester to ministry should be enough to require his removal.

Read more at The Weekly Standard