On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune ran a page-one piece about the case of Fr. Bruce Wellems, a Chicago priest who admitted to luring a seven-year-old boy from basketball games and then sexually abusing him multiple times during the course of a year. Wellems was an older teenager at the time.
Did the Claretians (the religious order to which Wellems belongs) adhere to their promises of transparency and tell Catholics about Wellems?
No … in fact, Claretian officials ordered their priests to destroy emails about Wellems and his crimes.
In 2014, did the Archdiocese of Los Angeles adhere to their promises of transparency and give parishioners in San Gabriel the correct information about Wellems? Did they post information about Wellems’ admission on their website, the parish website, or attempt to reach out to other potential victims?
No. They made one announcement from the pulpit, and then kept parishioners in the dark about the allegations. In fact, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Archbishop Jose Gomez allowed parishioners to believe that the allegations and admissions stemmed from a “consensual dating relationship.”
Gomez also allowed Wellems to tell the local media that allegations “had no factual basis …”, even though he had admitted to his crimes to church officials.
Then, after quietly booting Wellems from the Archdiocese of LA, Archbishop Gomez allowed the priest to take Los Angeles teenage marimba musicians (from the parish where he had just been booted) to Florida “on tour.” And of course, parents didn’t know that Wellems had sexually abused a child.
When Wellems was sent back to Chicago in 2015, Archbishop Blase Cupich and his review board reinstated the priest for active ministry. Did they tell parishioners that Wellems had been jettisoned from LA for violating zero tolerance? Did they bother to meet with Wellems’ victim?
Wellems was only removed from ministry when an advocate (that would be ME) called Cook County and reported what the Archdiocese of Chicago already knew.
So, according to Cupich, Wellems is okay to be an admitted sex-offending priest in a parish, as long as outside agencies didn’t know about it.
Speaking of announcements … are there any announcements on Wellems’ parish’s web page about his status or his admitted crimes?
So, now that Wellems is not allowed to “wear a collar” and “act as a priest,” is he living quietly in a location away from children?
No. He’s acting as a priest for the media and leading parish functions. In addition to the picture above (you know, the one where he’s leading a December parish Posada procession and mugging for photos for the Chicago Tribune, there’s THIS):
(yeah, that’s my Facebook. And yes, that’s an ad for a diet plan. Because I need one.)
And for parishioners to learn about Wellems’ past, they have to read the Chicago Tribune.
In fact, why is Wellems’ victim the only one telling the truth?
Here is the big question: why is Archbishop Cupich STILL telling half-truths about the status of Fr. Bruce Wellems and keeping parishioners in the dark? If Cupich is fine with Wellems being an active priest and decided to take the (reckless and dangerous) route of “forgiveness,” then why doesn’t he just SAY so? Why all of this cover-up and double-talk?
We should all question whether Cupich is fit for leading the Chicago Archdiocese. Because he certainly doesn’t know how to enforce Zero Tolerance, transparency, compassion, or truth.