The Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donal Weurl has declared his intention to meet with Pope Francis about his resignation.
In a letter sent to priests of the Archdiocese of Washington Sept. 11, Cardinal Donald Wuerl wrote that a decision about his future role in the archdiocese is “an essential aspect so that this archdiocesan Church we all love can move forward.
“I intend, in the very near future, to go to Rome to meet with our Holy Father about the resignation I presented nearly three years ago, November 12, 2015.”
Wuerl presented his resignation to the pope in 2015 upon turning 75, the age at which diocesan bishops are requested to submit letters of resignation to the pope.
After the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report the Cardinal further faced “intense scrutiny” regarding his handling of sex abuse cases in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington said Wuerl “has no intention of resigning.”
On August 18, 2018, it was announced that Wuerl would not attend the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, where he had been scheduled to give a keynote address. The Archdiocese offered no reason for the cancellation.
On August 20, 2018, Stephanie Sibal, senior publicist for Ave Maria Press, a publishing company of the Congregation of Holy Cross based out of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, told LifeSiteNews that her company had “indefinitely postponed” the release of a book written by Wuerl titled What Do You Want to Know? A Pastor’s Response to the Most Challenging Questions About the Catholic Faith. The book had been scheduled to be released in October 2018.
On August 22, 2018, Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik approved two decisions by the boards of Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School and Catholic High Schools of the Diocese of Pittsburgh to grant Wuerl’s request to have his name removed from Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry, Pennsylvania. The school will revert to its previous name, North Catholic High School. The decision was made after thousands petitioned for the change.
In response to the allegations against Wuerl, Hugh Hewitt demanded that Wuerl be dismissed as archbishop of Washington and resign from the College of Cardinals. More pleas for resignation followed. In a few days time over 60,000 people signed a petition to Pope Francis to remove Wuerl. In what CNN called a “growing Catholic insurgency,” Wuerl faced heightened calls for his resignation, including from a priest in his archdiocese and many laypeople. While Wuerl was saying Mass on Sunday, September 2, one man yelled “Shame on you!” during Wuerl’s homily.
At the end of August, Wuerl flew to Rome, where he met with Pope Francis. The pope instructed Wuerl to confer with the priests of the archdiocese regarding his next steps. On September 3, Wuerl met with more than a hundred priests of the archdiocese. He told them that he had known nothing about the allegations against McCarrick until they became public earlier this year. Over a dozen of the priests offered their views; some encouraged Wuerl to resign while others encouraged him to “stay and be part of the church’s healing process”.
Wuerl’s Sept. 11 letter noted that he had gathered with priests on Sept. 3, praying with them while trying to “discern the best course of action for me to pursue as we face new revelations of the extent of the horror of clergy abuse of children and the failures in episcopal oversight.”
“At issue is how to begin effectively to bring a new level of healing to survivors who have personally suffered so much and to the faithful entrusted to our care who have also been wounded by the shame of these terrible actions and have questions about their bishop’s ability to provide the necessary leadership,” Wuerl added.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington, Ed McFadden, told CNA that Wuerl’s letter is “evidence of a serious and constructive discernment process that Cardinal Wuerl went through, and his appreciation to the priests for their support and engagement in the discernment process, to help him work through it.”