The fallout from the Pennsylvania grand jury report and the testimony of Archbishop Viganò has put D.C. Cardinal Wuerl in an increasingly untenable position as more and more Catholics call for his resignation.
In early August, Wuerl was accused in the Pennsylvania grand jury report of transferring abusive priests to other parishes while serving as the Bishop of Pittsburgh. The D.C. Cardinal tried to deflect the accusation by saying he only made “mistakes,” an excuse that has resulted in more blowback:
The problems for Wuerl only grew when, several weeks later, the former Nuncio from the Vatican to the United States, Archbishop Viganò, publicly accused both Cardinal Wuerl and Pope Francis of knowing about the abusive actions of former D.C. Cardinal McCarrick and doing nothing about it. In fact, the former Nuncio claims Pope Francis elevated McCarrick with Wuerl’s complicity.
“I myself brought up the subject with Cardinal Wuerl on several occasions,” wrote Archbishop Viganò, “and I certainly didn’t need to go into detail because it was immediately clear to me that he was fully aware of it.”
The Cardinal’s “recent statements that he knew nothing about it,” said Viganò,”are absolutely laughable. He lies shamelessly.”
Wuerl has denied every charge. Over the weekend, reports indicate that the Cardinal made an unscheduled visit to the Vatican to speak with Pope Francis on several strategies going forward. One item proposed was Wuerl opening up to priests in his diocese on what actions he should take. It apparently did not go successfully:
One priest in Wuerl’s diocese openly called for his resignation at Mass and received a standing ovation:
On top of that, while Wuerl was giving Mass in D.C. on Sunday after his trip to Rome, an enraged parishioner began to heckle him as he pleaded for forgiveness, interrupting him by shouting “Shame on you!”
“Finally, we need to hold close in our prayers and our loyalty our Holy Father, Pope Francis,” said Wuerl. “Increasingly, it’s clear that he is the object of considerable animosity.”
It was then that a congregant named Brian Garfield stood up and shouted, “Shame on you!”
Garfield immediately left the Church as Wuerl continued to ignore his outburst. Finally, at his conclusion, Wuerl appeared to depart from his planned remarks to say, “Yes, my brothers and sisters, ‘shame.'”
“I wish,” said Wuerl, stuttering a bit, “I wish I could redo everything over these thirty years as a bishop. And each time, get it always right. That’s not the case. I do think together, asking for God’s mercy, pleading for God’s grace, recognizing that we can move into light, I simply ask you to keep me, keep all of those that have been abused, all of those who have suffered, all of the church in your prayers.”
Garfield later told CNN, “I don’t think he is a monster, but I wish he would talk less about defending himself and more about his failings. It’s a little galling to be lectured on transparency by people who are lying to us. I wish he would talk to us as a pastor and not a politician.”