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Season of giving: Wuerl reportedly donates balance of $2m fund

Cardinal Donald Wuerl has reportedly given away the balance of a $2 million fund in the Archdiocese of Washington designed for the cardinal’s “continuing ministry activities.”

Cardinal Donald William Wuerl in 2015.jpg
Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Credit: CBP Photography/public domain.

Senior priests in the Archdiocese of Washington were informed earlier this month that the cardinal has donated the entirety of the fund to charities, according to several Church officials in the Archdiocese of Washington.

Archdiocesan officials close to chancery told The Pillar that Wuerl had made the decision personally, and identified his own preferred charitable uses for the money, and that he had not been prompted by either archdiocesan officials or his successor, Cardinal Wilton Gregory.

The Archdiocese of Washington has not confirmed the fund’s dispersal.

The Pillar first reported in March on the existence of an Archdiocese of Washington fund of some $2 million designated for the “continuing ministry activities for [the] Archbishop Emeritus” in the 2020 financial year, up from just under $1.5 million the year before.

According to the archdiocese’s financial statements, the funds were derived from “net assets without donor restrictions.”

The archdiocese said subsequently that the money had come from donations made to the archdiocese specifically intended to support Wuerl’s life and ministry after retirement, and essentially formed a restricted fund within the archdiocesan accounts.

The year 2020 was the first in which Wuerl was entirely retired from administration of the archdiocese. The cardinal was Archbishop of Washington from 2006 until October 2018. He continued to lead the archdiocese as apostolic administrator until the installation of then-Archbishop Wilton Gregory in May 2019.

In November 2020, Wuerl turned 80 years old, aging out of his positions on several Vatican congregations, and losing the right to attend and vote in future conclaves.

The archdiocese has not responded to questions from The Pillar about the disposition of Wuerl’s fund.

A former archdiocesan official close to Wuerl told The Pillar this week that when the cardinal retired from archdiocesan leadership in 2019, he used more than $500,000 of his archdiocesan charitable account to fund a program of healing and prayer for the survivors of abuse, including clerical sexual abuse.

The program offers healing retreats to the survivors of abuse, completely free of charge. They were first offered in April 2019, as Wuerl prepared for retirement from active archdiocesan leadership, the former official told The Pillar.

The former official speculated that the archbishop likely used his “continuing ministry account” to fund the abuse survivors’ ministry, and may have also made contributions to the archdiocesan priest pension fund and seminary needs, all causes the official said are important to Wuerl.

During the final months of Wuerl’s tenure in Washington, the cardinal came under sustained scrutiny after he denied that he knew about, or had any reason to suspect, accusations of abuse and sexual misconduct against former Washington archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

In fact, Wuerl was made aware in 2004 of an allegation of “inappropriate conduct” against McCarrick. Wuerl reportedly conveyed the allegation to the apostolic nuncio in Washington, D.C.

In 2010, Wuerl advised the Vatican against sending an official birthday greeting to McCarrick, because of “the possibility that the New York Times is going to publish a nasty article, already prepared, about the Cardinal’s ‘moral life’.”

In November 2020, the Holy See published a 450-page report on the “institutional knowledge and decision-making” which led to McCarrick’s promotions in the Church’s hierarchy, which came despite decades of misconduct allegations.

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