Prominent D.C. Deacon Calls on Cardinal Wuerl to Resign; Says He Will No Longer Assist Him During Mass

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, enters church for Mass at St. Mathews Cathedral, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

A prominent Washington, D.C. deacon has added his voice to the growing calls for Cardinal Donald Wuerl to resign over his handling of sex abuse cases, saying “genuine healing” for the victims and for the church requires it.

In a bold letter sent to Cardinal Wuerl and published on the blog The Worthy Adversary Saturday, Deacon James Garcia of St. Matthew’s Cathedral wrote that he would no longer participate in any mass led by Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington. Garcia serves as the master of ceremony for St. Matthew’s and has often stood beside the cardinal during High Masses.

He also shared with the cardinal a reflection he delivered on August 20 as part of the cathedral’s Holy Hour. “The time for cowardice and self-preservation is long past. Victims cry out for justice and the faithful deserves shepherds who are not compromised,” Garcia said in his reflection.

“I am firmly convinced that the events of the last several weeks — particularly the publication of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report — demand an unequivocal response, especially from those of us ordained for ministerial service to the Church,” the deacon wrote in his letter to Cardinal Wuerl.

“Most Reverend Father, in view of recent developments, I cannot, in good conscience, continue to attend to you personally, whether as an assisting deacon or a master of ceremony,” he wrote.

The letter continues, “I implore you, for the good of the Church we both love so dearly: Act with courage and humility. Relinquish your position as Archbishop without delay.”

He concluded: “I am firmly convinced that genuine healing, first and foremost of the victims of sexual abuse, but also of the Church more broadly, requires precisely this response from you. I am firmly convinced that justice demands nothing less.”

Wuerl has been under intense scrutiny since early August, when he was named in the shocking Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing allegations of widespread sexual abuse by more than 300 priests against more than 1,000 children over decades. The embattled cardinal is accused of helping to cover up the crimes of predatory priests while serving as the bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988-2006.

Wuerl’s reputation took another hit a few weeks later, when the former nuncio from the Vatican to the United States, Archbishop Viganò, accused both the cardinal and Pope Francis of knowing about former D.C. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick’s history of sexual abuse, and doing nothing about it.

Wuerl denied knowing anything 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 called Wuerl’s denials “absolutely laughable.”

“I myself brought up the subject with Cardinal Wuerl on several occasions, 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 wrote in his 11-page bombshell letter, adding that “he lies shamelessly.”

Wuerl reportedly submitted his resignation to Pope Francis two years ago, but the pope did not accept it.
The embattled cardinal traveled at the end of August to Rome, where Pope Francis advised him to consult his clergy within the archdiocese about whether or not he should resign. During a meeting with his priests at the Little Flower Parish in Bethesda, Maryland, on Labor Day, a “significant number” of priests reportedly supported his resignation.

George Neumayr, a Catholic journalist who live-tweeted the event, said someone (presumably) from the cardinal’s security detail accosted him in the parking lot and likely called the police on him and the small handful of others who were there for answers. Six police cruisers soon turned up and the small group was ordered off the property, according to Neumayr.

Neumayr later discovered that the security official he met in the parking lot was none other than Mark Sullivan, former president Barack Obama’s Secret Service director who resigned in disgrace in 2013 amid a series of breaches and scandals — including a high-profile prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, in April 2012.

Neumayr wrote about his troubling discovery at the American Spectator and “the subsequent harassment” he received from “security goons clearly working for Cardinal Wuerl.”

Sullivan’s presence within Wuerl’s circle raises scary and troubling questions, especially in light of the fact that after he worked security at Wuerl’s Little Flower Priestly Confab I found myself tailed by a Wuerlian security goon. On September 4, I went over to Wuerl’s “pastoral center” in Hyattsville, Maryland. The treatment I received there was anything but pastoral: shortly after appearing in its foyer, a man with an openly displayed gun started shadowing me. When I returned to the car I was borrowing, the door was ajar. Then as I left the parking lot, a truck, with “archdiocese of Washington” emblazoned on the side of it, followed me.

After I watched the truck follow me for a bit, I darted off to the side of the road, which meant that the tailing vehicle jumped ahead of me. I then followed it, taking a picture of the truck’s license plate. The driver started acting very strangely, attempting to bolt but without success, owing to impeding traffic. I pulled up beside him, and the man, who looked to me like an ex-soldier or ex-spook, glared at me intimidatingly. He resumed driving, then slammed on his brakes, clearly intending to cause me to be rear-ended or clipped by the car behind me, which nearly happened.

At that point, I decided to call 911. He dropped back behind me, going right on University Avenue as I went left. “Go to a high-population area,” the operator instructed me. I parked in the lot of a shopping center and waited for a police officer. He eventually arrived and encouraged me to file a temporary restraining order against Cardinal Donald Wuerl and his representatives.

These attempts to intimidate a journalist who was only trying to investigate the prelate for failing to protect young people are troubling to say the least.

Meanwhile, according to Joelle Casteix of The Worthy Adversary blog, Wuerl had not responded to Garcia’s letter as of Saturday.