Wuerl, 80, was appointed to lead the Washington archdiocese in May 2006. Pope Benedict XVI named him a cardinal in 2010. He was previously Bishop of Pittsburgh since 1988.
Wuerl had submitted his resignation to the Vatican in 2015 upon turning 75, as is the requirement for bishops.
Pope Francis accepted Wuerl’s resignation in Oct. 2018 at Wuerl’s request, but asked him to remain as Apostolic Administrator until the appointment of his successor. In May 2019, Archbishop— now Cardinal— Wilton Gregory was installed in Washington.
The archdiocese of Washington released a statement March 4 following The Pillar’s report, saying the funds in the “continuing ministry activities” account are donations “made by persons who want to cover Cardinal Wuerl’s expenses and ministerial needs.”
These include “living expenses, prior travel for business in Rome, as well as for charitable requests asked of the archbishop emeritus,” the statement said, adding that the “donations have accumulated over time.”
However, The Pillar noted that the funds allocated for Wuerl are classified as “net assets without donor restrictions,” meaning they are not subject to “donor imposed restrictions stipulating how, when and/or if the net assets are available for expenditure.”
The designation appears at odds with the archdiocese’s statement that the funds were donated with the specific intention of covering Wuerl’s expenses.
The Pillar contacted the archdiocese to ask specifically about the funds’ designation— which is regulated both by state law and the IRS— and did not receive a reply by press time.
“All the expenses of Cardinal Gregory and Cardinal Wuerl are reviewed by members of the Archdiocesan Finance Council throughout the year. All expenditures go through the Archdiocese’s normal budget and internal control procedures, which are also audited by an accounting firm annually,” the archdiocesan statement concluded.
The U.S. bishops’ conference has guidelines for providing for retired bishops, recommending that their diocese give them a stipend of at least $2,250 per month, as well as housing, health insurance, a car, travel expenses, secretarial assistance if needed, and a suitable funeral and burial.
McCarrick, Wuerl’s predecessor, is known to have funnelled hundreds of thousands of dollars through what was known as the Archbishop’s Fund, and reportedly made gifts to senior Vatican officials, even while the fund remained under the charitable auspices of the archdiocese.
The Archdiocese of Washington has so far declined to disclose sources, sums, and uses of money, though it has acknowledged that the fund exists.