Cardinal Wuerl Is Out... Or Is He?

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

Embattled Cardinal Wuerl is finally out after Pope Francis accepted his resignation. Wuerl was named in the Pennsylvania grand jury report accusing him of being responsible for shuffling known predator priests around. In one egregious case, he allegedly paid off a priest who was involved in a child porn ring. It is disturbing to many Catholics that Wuerl is being allowed to retire with all his benefits after so terrible a cover-up, but at one point it was debatable whether he would even resign. USA Today reported: “A Vatican statement Friday said Francis had accepted Wuerl’s resignation, but named no replacement; Wuerl’s office said he had been asked to stay on in a temporary capacity until a new archbishop is found.”

So even after all the scandal, Wuerl isn’t going anywhere. He’s staying right where he is, doing the same job he’s always done while the pope “searches for a replacement.” One would think the pontiff has a list as long as his arm of replacements already queued up. He has known about this situation for months. This non-action allows the pope to claim he is doing something while not actually doing anything that brings about change. When Catholics around the country cried out for Wuerl’s resignation, they meant his immediate removal. This is a man who has lost the respect of the faithful. They have taken his name off of schools. Parishioners have protested during mass, standing with their backs to him or shouting out during his homily. This man cannot continue in his current position as if he still has any moral authority. He doesn’t.

The idea that the pope would not immediately remove him and place an interim bishop in that position — when the people have been protesting since the Pennsylvania report that named over 300 predator priests — is unthinkable. It is the worst scandal in the history of the Church in the United States and not even one head has rolled with anything close to a satisfying thud.

This is not the action that people of God expect their moral authority to take. This leaves us wondering if the pope retains any knowledge of good and evil at all. Do we have to write it in the sky for him? CHILD MOLESTING IS EVIL. COVERING UP CHILD MOLESTING IS EVIL. The Church can have no part in it. The pope should have no problem issuing walking papers to anyone who was involved in this. Cardinal Wuerl was involved up to his eyebrows. There are letters in his own handwriting (see the Pennsylvania report) detailing molesters’ crimes and yet he continued to move them to active service in other parishes where they preyed on more children. This is an outrage.

The people have been patient enough. The pope has had months to do something about this. Months. How many months do you think it would take a school to fire a principal who had covered up the rape of a child? Do you think any parent would stand for the principal “resigning” but keeping his position until another person could fill it? At that point, parents would accept the janitor in the interim. Can the Catholic Church not be at least as competent as the public school system? By anyone’s standards, that’s a pretty low bar.

Are there no auxiliary bishops in Washington, D.C.? (There are at least two.) Are they not qualified to stand in for a short time? Is the pope telling us that the best he can do with his army of priests and prelates and bishops and cardinals from all over the world is to leave the perpetrator in his position of authority for yet more months? Is he kidding? I mean, excuse me, but this is too much. I’m trying very hard not to be sarcastic or, as the pope might say, “spreading calumny,” but I’m a convert. I’m allowed to retain my Protestant spirit of protest. I protest. It is my right and my duty as a mother and faithful Catholic to speak the truth to any prelate who is failing to protect the laity in so egregious a way, including the pope. How could I live with myself if I did not speak? Whatever the church can do to me isn’t half as horrifying as what they have already done to the weakest among us—our children.

Many Catholics are afraid to speak out and to remind their leaders what their job is. But St. Catherine of Siena wasn’t afraid to tell Pope Gregory to shape the hell up and get his butt to Rome. “I beg of you, on behalf of Christ crucified, that you be not a timorous child, but manly. Open your mouth and swallow down the bitter for the sweet,” she wrote. For the love of all that is holy, Pope Francis, man up! If you won’t listen to anyone else, listen to St. Catherine:

So by the fragrance of their virtue they would help eliminate the vice and sin, the pride and filth that are rampant among the Christian people—especially among the prelates, pastors, and administrators of holy Church who have turned to eating and devouring souls, not converting them but devouring them! And it all comes from their selfish love for themselves, from which pride is born, and greed and avarice and spiritual and bodily impurity. They see the infernal wolves carrying off their charges and it seems they don’t care. Their care has been absorbed in piling up worldly pleasures and enjoyment, approval and praise. And all this comes from their selfish love for themselves. For if they loved themselves for God instead of selfishly, they would be concerned only about God’s honor and not their own, for their neighbors’ good and not their own self indulgence. Ah, my dear babbo, see that you attend to these things! Look for good virtuous men, and put them in charge of the little sheep. Such men will feed in the mystic body of holy Church not as wolves but as lambs. It will be for our good and for your peace and consolation, and they will help you to carry the great burdens I know are yours.

Holy Father, do your job.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member