'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

Dolan CNA Cardinal Dolan speaks during a conference in Rome, 2014. | CNA

Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a personal toll on him. The Archbishop of New York said that his own mother is "embarrassed to be Catholic."

Dolan made the comments to CNN's Christiane Amanpour in a Sept. 13 interview. He said that his mother, who lives in an assisted-living home, told him that people knew her son was a priest and that she was ashamed of the scandals. 

"If you don't think that's wrenching, I tell you, it's awful. This summer has been anything but a church picnic for us. It's been a disaster--one crisis after another," he said.

Dolan also said that, while scandals involving sexual abuse among the clergy were "not new," he had listened to many survivors face-to-face throughout the years and that the damage done to them and to the Church was terrible.

The cardinal explained that when people came to him in anger and frustration about the revelations he told them how he shares their pain and outrage. Dolan also expressed his anger at how his fellow bishops could be "so negligent" in failing to properly respond to allegations of abuse.

Despite this anger at members of the Church hierarchy for mishandling or ignoring abuse claims, Dolan gave a strong vote of personal support to Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.

Dolan said that Wuerl had a strong record as a reformer who has taken tough action against clerical abuse.

Cardinal Wuerl has faced numerous calls for his resignation in the fallout of the revelations concerning his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, and a Pennsylvania grand jury report on allegations of sexual abuse in several dioceses in that state.

"I've got to be personal," Dolan said of Wuerl, "he's a good friend and he's a tremendous leader. I kind of hope he doesn't resign. We need him. He's been a great source of reform in the past."

Dolan did, however, say that he would "trust" Wuerl's decision if he felt it was necessary to resign.

Wuerl, the former bishop of Pittsburgh, was named over 200 times in the Pennsylvania grand jury report. In addition to persistent questions about his knowledge of the accusations against McCarrick, he has faced criticism for his handling of some cases involving accused priests during his time in Pittsburgh.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Cardinal Wuerl submitted his resignation to Pope Francis following his 75th birthday three years ago, as is required by canon law. By not accepting the resignation, Pope Francis has allowed him to continue in office past the normal retirement age.

While it was widely thought that Wuerl hoped to continue in post at least until the U. S. Bishops' conference met for their general session in November, an Archdiocese of Washington spokesman recently confirmed to CNA that he plans to travel to Rome "soon" to request that the pope accept his resignation.

As Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Dolan was responsible for overseeing the preliminary investigation into allegations that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick groped a 16 year old boy in 1971. McCarrick was serving as a priest in the Archdiocese of New York at that time.

That investigation, which began in 2017, determined the accusation to be credible and forwarded the charge to authorities in Rome. The public disclosure of that finding in June 2018 triggered a succession of public accusations that McCarrick had sexually assaulted or abused seminarians and priests over a period of decades, as well as a further accusation that he had sexually abused a minor.

Since then, numerous bishops in the United States and Rome have faced questions about when accusations against McCarrick had first been made known to Church authorities, and how he had been allowed to continue in ministry despite widespread rumors of his misconduct.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.