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Cardinal Wuerl: 'I forgot I knew about abuse allegations'

PITTSBURGH — Cardinal Donald Wuerl is now saying he forgot that he knew about sex abuse reports while he was bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

He wrote in a new letter, "It is important for me to accept personal responsibility and apologize for this lapse in memory."

That 'lapse' was exposed by a former priest in a bombshell Washington Post story last week.

The priest received a personal apology from Cardinal Wuerl Tuesday night after speaking with him on the phone for 45 minutes.


He told Channel 11 Cardinal Wuerl apologized for three things, but he came away from the call feeling frustrated and let down.

"There's disappointment, there's hurt and there's disbelief," said Robert Ciolek.

A former priest, Ciolek came to Pittsburgh in 2004 and testified to then-Bishop Wuerl that he was abused by a Pittsburgh priest and also by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Ciolek says he went back to the Pittsburgh diocese last month and saw documents that showed Wuerl reported his allegations to the Vatican in 2004.

On Tuesday night, Wuerl released a statement, saying he didn't remember Ciolek's allegations.

"I don't believe for one moment that he's ever forgotten about it," Ciolek said.

The Pennsylvania grand jury report that came out last August painted Wuerl as a leader who orchestrated a massive coverup of child sex abuse by priests in Pittsburgh.

Since then, Wuerl has stated publicly, several times, that he was not aware of any allegations against McCarrick.

Those denials led Ciolek to go public last week with the diocese's own documents that showed Wuerl knew about McCarrick in 2004.

Pittsburgh's former bishop responds to criticism that he lied when he said he was unaware of accusations made against his predecessor.

Posted by WPXI-TV Pittsburgh on Wednesday, January 16, 2019

After mounting pressure from Ciolek and news outlets, Wuerl reversed course and said he had forgotten.

"By saying he didn't remember what I had shared with him undermines even further and causes me even more pain because it suggests the matters I shared with him were so insignificant that despite the intervening 14 years, they were not something he was even mindful of," Ciolek said.

Ciolek praised the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh and Bishop David Zubik for letting him see the file and giving him access to such sensitive information.