It comes in the aftermath of the Pennsylvania grand jury’s findings that as bishop of Pittsburgh he covered up sexual abuse and shuffled predatory priests between parishes, endangering the safety of children.
As of publication, 1,359 people had signed the petition thus far.
“Your many actions as bishop of Pittsburgh, thoroughly documented in the Pennsylvania grand jury report, are deplorable,” the petition states.
Cardinal Wuerl needs to resign. Sign the petition here.
Wuerl stated on Wednesday that he will not step down.
The 900-page grand jury report released Tuesday revealed that Church leaders in six of Pennsylvania’s eight dioceses took part in a decades-long “systematic” cover-up of sex abuse by priests, with 301 Pennsylvania priests found to have abused more than 1,000 children. The actual number of victims is thought to be higher.
Wuerl’s name appears 206 times in the report.
As bishop of Pittsburgh, he knew about predatory priests and moved them to different dioceses, the report says, and while he corresponded with the Vatican concerning the liability these priests created for the Church, he kept their actions concealed from parishioners.
In one case, Wuerl had green-lighted additional compensation to a known molester of underage boys who, after being sent on a diocesan-subsidized “personal” leave of absence following multiple abuse complaints, had informed the diocese that he knew about other Pittsburgh priests committing illegal sexual activity and he wanted his diocesan stipend increased in exchange for specifics.
According to the grand jury report:
In response to this request, Wuerl instructed him to document in writing the names of the priests involved, or, state that he had no knowledge of what he had previously claimed. Wuerl advised that this action had to be undertaken before Zirwas could receive any additional assistance. After Zirwas disavowed any knowledge of priest involvement in illegal sexual activity in a letter to the Diocese, he was granted an additional financial stipend and his sustenance payments were continued.
Wuerl had earlier returned the priest to ministry shortly after the priest threatened legal action against diocesan personnel for “raising the consciousness” with parishioners about previous scandals concerning him.
The accused priest – later murdered in Cuba where he lived with his boyfriend – was ultimately found to be involved in producing child pornography based on religious imagery on Church property, and to be part of a group of priests who “used whips, violence and sadism in raping their victims.”
LifeSiteNews’ petition details specifics of the Pennsylvania grand jury report related to Cardinal Wuerl, and it conveys to the cardinal that he has not fulfilled his role as a shepherd, resulting in untold cost to members of the Catholic faithful.
“You failed in your duty as a shepherd,” it states. “The human cost of your actions and inaction – lives ruined, faith destroyed – is incalculable.”
Wuerl told the local Fox affiliate Wednesday after the grand jury report’s release he would not resign, and that the way the Church deals with child sex abuse cases today differs from how it dealt with them years ago, terming it an “evolution.”
“My efforts from the time that I reached Pittsburgh onto today, I’ve tried to do my very best to deal with this whole question of allegations against a priest,” Wuerl said.
“Now, remember, we're dealing with a long spectrum of time so how we dealt with things in the late 80s and early 90s is different than the way we would today,” he said. “How do you deal with an allegation, and remember now when an allegation comes forward that allegation often times ends up being one word against another.”
“I think I did everything that I possibly could,” Wuerl added, citing establishment of an abuse review board comprised of laity.
Wuerl also disputed Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s assessment that the Church showed “complete disdain” for the victims. “I think that's his take to say that we did nothing at all. That's simply not verified with the facts,” Wuerl told the Fox interviewer.
Wuerl’s Fox interview was not his only public relations effort related to the Pennsylvania grand jury report on decades of sordid clergy abuse in the Church there.
A website established by the Washington archdiocese to defend Wuerl, titled, “The Wuerl Record,” was promptly deleted after it met with criticism Wednesday. On Tuesday in advance of the report’s release Wuerl had also issued a statement via a spokesperson taking issue with the grand jury having attributed the hand-written phrase “circle of secrecy” to him.
Wuerl had also downplayed the overall sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church as further exposed by recent revelations regarding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, Wuerl’s disgraced predecessor in an interview last week.
McCarrick was removed from active ministry June 20 and resigned from active ministry July 28 owing to decades old allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor.
“I don’t think this is some massive, massive crisis,” Wuerl said last week. “It was a terrible disappointment.”
He went on to say that the US Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Young People has “worked.”
“This scandal has irreparably marred your episcopate,” LifeSite’s petition states. “Step aside so the victims of the priests you oversaw – and the Church – can begin to heal.”