Cardinal Wuerl
Roman Catholic Church

Why has Cardinal Wuerl (retired) been given $2m by the Washington Archdiocese?

“In 2020, the Archdiocese of Washington allocate more than $2 million for the ‘continued ministry’ of retired Cardinal Donald Wuerl. For comparison, the archdiocese earmarked $400k for charitable giving”, tweeted canon lawyer Ed Condon, who also brought us the story in The Pillar.

“When it was audited, ADW [Archdiocese of Washington] said it took some of its money each year and put it an envelope for +Wuerl — adding up to $2m by 6/30/20”, noted The Pillar‘s Editor-in-Chief JD Flynn. “Today, the ADW said *actually* donors gave the money explicitly and only for +Wuerl. Those are not the same”, he observed.

“This is simply scandalous. They don’t get it, do they?” tweeted Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith, releasing a thread of condemnation, ranging from the Archdiocese (or is it cardinals?) being servants of Satan to the entire Roman Catholic Church being “just a giant protection racket“. It fell to the reasoned voice of Caroline Farrow to make the most reasonable observation: “It’s also in start contrast to retired priests from some U.K. dioceses who are told to apply for council houses and are literally living off help from friends.”

“It’s so blatantly outrageous that it’s hard to believe…. which is perhaps how these things work”, tweeted Fr David Palmer, former Anglican now priest in the Ordinariate. “Looking forward to my ‘Continuing ministry’ retirement fund when the time comes”, he added, squirting an imprecatory jet of lemon juice into Cardinal Wuerl’s left eye.

“Cardinal Wuerl trousers $2 million, while lots of hardworking priests especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America, live very frugally. You could not make this up. And then they are surprised we are angry”, Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith reiterated, unleashing another thread of damnation: “This is all happening because Card. Wilton was once mistaken for a golf caddy at a posh resort… Of course, we can’t ask what the Cardinal was doing at a posh golf resort in the first place. More ‘continuing ministry’ Catholic-style no doubt…”; “I’m not sure the people who make these decisions are surprised that we are angry – I don’t think they care”; “But it’s not a massive, massive scandal…”; “Bastardi!”.

It is a little hard to understand why a retired cardinal should be allocated $2m for “continuing ministry” – unless, of course, he is giving it all away to feed the poor, heal the sick and house the homeless. $2m is an awful lot of money for one man when millions of the faithful are weeping in despair, and thousands are lying in their Covid cardboard coffins awaiting the Last Trumpet. It does seem a little insensitive, doesn’t it? By not practising his righteousness (if that’s what he’s doing) with trumpets and drums, the stench of hypocrisy may be nosed throughout Christendom. Is it possible that he is doing such good things that his left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing? Could he be channelling $2m to charity in secret, so that his Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward him?

Well, we don’t know. All that we have is a story in The Pillar and a lot of Catholic priests (and a canon lawyer) fomenting protest at Cardinal Wuerl’s counterfeit gospel. Does he know where the bodies are buried? He isn’t quite selling indulgences, but the reaction to the Washington Archdiocese’s largesse must certainly weaken the motivation of their flock to seek divine grace and salvation when their hard-earned cents are being used (apparently) for the profane ends of ecclesial power and wealth. So what we have is judgment by appearance, which Christians are exhorted not to do, lest they be judged similarly. You find Cardinal Wuerl’s $2m unpalatable? Well, how much equity do you have in your house?

Truly, it is only those who live frugally, ascetically, who may righteously question this $2m. And it could all be cleared up with a little openness and transparency. The Pillar informs us: “The archdiocese, which has pledged in recent years a commitment to financial transparency, has not responded to questions about the details of Wuerl’s continued ministry, the costs associated with it, or the source of the funds allocated for Wuerl.”

It’s a fair challenge, when:

The archdiocesan 2020 financial statement includes an unfunded priest retirement liability of at least $35 million, which has grown from $23.5 million since 2015.

The statement also includes a 30% drop in funds earmarked for “Archdiocesan charitable giving” in the 2020 fiscal year, which decreased to $401,136, from $651,136 in fiscal year 2019.

The amount allocated to “formation of priests” also declined, from $1,102,500 in 2019 to $1,000,481 in 2020.

Yet one also senses that Cardinal Wuerl isn’t particularly liked. Perhaps he has a bit of immoral baggage or holds theological beliefs which offend his critics, and so nothing he can possibly do could be in obedience to the will of God. Still, an opaque grant or gold-plated pension of $2m is a gift to those who discern by performance: it looks wrong, smells wrong, and feels wrong. Why, then, does the Washington Archdiocese not simply communicate in a fresh and illuminating way? Why do they not graciously respond to these scornful pronouncements with manifest aspects of truth? Why do they not consider the urgent need to witness to the world of the Catholic Church’s renunciation of corruption and cover-up? Why do they not lay down their lives in humility. instead of making themselves vulnerable to allegations of living as enemies of the cross of Christ?

Or is it only by nailing 95 Theses on The Pillar that a wayward Christian community may be confronted with the need for urgent reformation?