Washington diocese names 31 ex-clergy accused of abuse

The Catholic archdiocese of Washington divulged on Monday the names of 31 former clergy accused of being involved in the abuse of minors over the past 70 years, days after Archbishop Donald Wuerl resigned over the scandal.

Many of the cases appear to have been known, with 16 of the priests and one deacon already exposed publicly, arrested and convicted in courts.

All 31 have been expelled from the church and 17 have died, according to the Archdiocese of Washington.

The list was assembled by Cardinal Wuerl, 77, ahead of his resignation last Friday. Before becoming the archbishop of Washington in 2006, Wuerl was the bishop of Pittsburgh for about 18 years. There, he was blamed for not doing enough to deal with paedophile priests, instead covering up the scandal in the state of Pennsylvania. Wuerl has denied the cover-up any abuse, but recently asked for forgiveness for his “errors in judgements” and “inadequacies”. 

Wuerl, who was asked by Pope Francis to stay on as administrator in the archdiocese of Washington until another archbishop was appointed, said in a statement that Monday’s “list is a painful reminder of the grave sins committed by clergy, the pain inflicted on innocent young people, and the harm done to the Church’s faithful, for which we continue to seek forgiveness.” 

He also said that the church’s “strong commitment to accompany survivors of abuse on their path toward healing is unwavering”, adding that there currently is “no archdiocesan priest in active ministry who has ever been the subject of a credible allegation of abuse of a minor”.

‘Evaluated, treated … cleared for return’

A grand jury report in August revealed credible child sex abuse allegations against more than 300 priests in Pennsylvania.

In the report, Wuerl, is repeatedly cited as one of the church leaders who helped to cover up the scandal.

Wuerl’s resignation came as Pope Francis continues to struggle with the scandal over covering up priestly abuse of minors which has battered the Catholic Church since the 1990s.

The Archdiocese of Washington’s statement gave a small picture of how many of the cases were handled.

Robert Petrella, a priest ordained in 1964, was accused two years later of abuse. The statement Monday said he was temporarily removed, “evaluated and treated” and then “cleared for return” to the ministry.

About 23 years later he was permanently removed after additional abuse was reported. In 1996, he was arrested and sent to trial, where he was convicted. 

Another, Arthur O’Brien, was ordained in 1983 and accused of abuse that year. He too was treated and cleared for return to the ministry, eventually being assigned to Hawaii, where he was arrested and convicted for abuse in 1992.

His predecessor, Theodore McCarrick, resigned from the Vatican’s College of Cardinals in July.

McCarrick, one of the most high-profile Catholic leaders to face abuse claims, was accused of sexually abusing a teenager nearly five decades earlier.

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