Embattled Cardinal Wuerl Still Clinging to Power Amid Growing Calls to Resign

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington. (Rebecca Droke/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

Church controversies continue to swirl around embattled Cardinal Donald Wuerl, and it is beginning to look like a matter of when, not if, he will resign.

Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., has been under intense scrutiny since early August when his name loomed large in the shocking Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing allegations of widespread sexual abuse by more than 300 priests against more than 1,000 children. The embattled cardinal is accused of helping to cover up the crimes of predatory priests while serving as the bishop of Pittsburgh.

It got even worse for Wuerl several weeks later when the former nuncio from the Vatican to the United States, Archbishop Viganò, accused both Cardinal Wuerl and Pope Francis in his bombshell 11-page letter of knowing about former D.C. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick’s history of sexual abuse, and doing nothing about it.

Wuerl insists that he never heard about McCarrick’s abusive behavior despite claims that the disgraced former cardinal’s sexual overtures toward seminarians were common knowledge among the clergy and despite two legal settlements that were made to McCarrick’s victims in New Jersey.

Viganò accused Pope Francis of elevating 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 archbishop said Wuerl’s recent statements denying that he knew anything about it were “absolutely laughable.” Vigano added: “He lies shamelessly.”

After weeks of criticism and calls for his resignation, Wuerl has only admitted to making “mistakes,” while still clinging to his leadership role.

Cardinal Wuerl traveled to the Vatican and met with Pope Francis on Thursday to discuss the growing controversy, according to the Washington Post. The meeting was first reported by the American Spectator’s George Neumayr on Twitter.

“He asked the Holy Father how to move forward and they told him he should discern with his priests,” a source told the Washington Post.

Back in D.C. on Sunday following his trip to Rome, Wuerl faced protesters at Washington’s Annunciation Catholic Church.

In a short speech after the Mass, Wuerl asked the 200 or so people in the congregation to forgive his “errors in judgment” and “inadequacies.” Wuerl also urged the parish to pray for and remain loyal to Pope Francis, as “increasingly it is clear that he is the object of considerable animosity.” As Wuerl mentioned the Pope, Brian Garfield, who was sitting in the middle of the church, stood and yelled “Shame on you!” and quickly walked out.

Another protester turned her back on the cardinal.

Wuerl held an annual Labor Day confab with his priests on Monday at the Little Flower Parish in Bethesda, Maryland. The irony of Wuerl’s choice of venue was not lost on Neumayr:

While the gathering is usually a festive occasion, the cardinal sent an invitation to his priests, saying this year’s get-together would be different, the Washington Post reported.

“While we still need to come together in priestly solidarity, this time we do so not with the accent on joy but with the emphasis on prayer and support for one another. There is a very real sense of being overwhelmed,” he wrote. “I would like us to simply share whatever our thoughts, our feelings, our sense of where we are as brothers bearing a cross together.”

As directed by Pope Francis, Wuerl sought discernment with his priests — and by all accounts, it didn’t go well.

One person who spoke with two priests who were there said the priests who attended were quite split about whether Wuerl should resign, and whether he was to blame. The feeling of the meeting, the person said, was respectful. The scripture reading at the prayer was about Jesus being attacked by enemies, but moving forward; “being prophetic by being clear and leading.”

Priests told Wuerl they were wounded by the scandals and didn’t know what to believe. Some told him they found it hard to believe him when he has said he never heard rumors about McCarrick, which had swirled for years. Wuerl has denied hearing anything about sexual misconduct involving McCarrick, and has defended his record in Pittsburgh.

Neumayr, who was stationed out in the church parking lot during the meeting, reported that “a significant number” of priests said they wanted the cardinal to resign.

While he was out in the parking lot, Neumayr was also accosted by someone from church security.

Soon after that encounter, six police cruisers showed up at the Little Flower to protect Wuerl from 2-4 protesters, the reporter noted on Twitter.

Neumayr claims he’s now being harassed by the cardinal’s security detail.

On Wednesday, Neumayr reported on Twitter that the “Mark Sullivan” who accosted him outside of the Little Flower Parish on Monday was none other than the director of the Secret Service under Obama.  “He left that position after his agents got in trouble for using prostitutes in Latin America,” Neumayr noted.