By Liz Friden
In a blog post Friday morning, Catholic University Chancellor Cardinal Wuerl announced his reasons for meeting with Pope Francis to discuss his resignation.
“Those called to serve the Church in a leadership capacity must recognize that we are to lead not only by word, but also by personal action,” he wrote. “We must be prepared to do whatever is needed, including stepping aside. This action on my part is an essential aspect of the healing so that this archdiocesan Church we all love can move forward.”
Cardinal Donald Wuerl went to the Vatican earlier this week to meet with Pope Francis about resigning as the Archbishop of Washington D.C. Cardinal Wuerl submitted his letter of resignation to the Catholic Church three years ago as all archbishops do when they turn 75.
Wuerl’s name was mentioned over 200 times in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report released August 14th. The report is the result of a two-year investigation by the grand jury into widespread sexual abuse of children within six catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania, and includes the cover up between senior church officials of Pennsylvania and the Vatican. Wuerl was not accused of abuse, but as Bishop of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Diocese from 1988 to 2006, his potential involvement with the cover-up has been brought into question.
Wuerl was absent from the Mass of the Holy Spirit on August 30th, during the first week of classes for Catholic University students. This mass is an annual mass and is always celebrated in the Basilica of the National Shrine by the Archbishop of Washington. The Archdiocese of Washington did not respond to any requests for comment on Wuerl’s absence.
Catholic University has faced a difficult semester after the Archdiocese of New York found allegations of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s abuse of adults and minors to be “credible and substantial”, which was announced only weeks before the grand jury report. McCarrick served as Archbishop of Washington D.C. and Chancellor to the University from 2001 to 2006. The university withdrew the honorary degree given to him while he was still Chancellor.
Catholic University students have had mixed reactions to the grand jury report. In the days following the report, some students began to formally call for Cardinal Wuerl’s resignation through a change.org petition. The petition was created by students Sean O’Grady and Francisco Flores-Pourrat. The petition calls for Catholic University students to take a stand against the sex abuse and cover-ups by the church. The petition also calls for President Garvey to, “ensure that Cardinal Donald Wuerl will not be present at any upcoming campus events in which the Cardinal directly participates with the student body.”
“This crisis above all is a call to personal holiness — particularly for the Church’s leaders, who should set an example for their flock,” President Garvey said at the Mass of the Holy Spirit. President Garvey also mentioned the fact that the mass was being held to invoke “the help and intercession of the Holy Spirit.” He made clear during this “routine” mass, that “there is nothing routine about this year.”
University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry Fr. Jude DeAngelo said during his homily, “We need the humility to confess our failures and minister to those whom we have ignored far too long.”
Senior Owen Salyers declined to sign the petition. Similar to the students who created the petition, Salyers has a deep faith in God, but also a deep faith in the institution of the church. Salyers explained how Cardinal Wuerl can seek forgiveness saying, “At the end of the day, people like Cardinal Wuerl have sought personal forgiveness.”
Cardinal Wuerl concluded his blog post Friday morning by thanking those who have prayed for the church and for him.