DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Thousands of Catholics outraged by sex abuse cover-ups are demanding that Cdl. Donald Wuerl step down.
Furious over his defiance in failing to admit responsibility or apologize for protecting predatory priests, Catholics have started two petitions demanding that the cardinal-archbishop of Washington, D.C. be removed from his post.
Cardinal Wurel was the bishop of the diocese of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006 and was named 169 times in the Pennsylvania grand jury report, which revealed his practice of reassigning predator priests, even paying hush money to a priest involved in a child porn ring in exchange for his silence on other priests' criminal sexual misconduct. Wuerl was appointed archbishop of Washington, D.C. after homosexual predator, ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired.
A petition on Change.org has already reached more than 50,000 signatures, demanding that Pope Francis remove Cdl. Wuerl from his position.
"In this #MeToo era, it is unconscionable that a Cardinal who played a role in the conspiracy of silence and cover-up of clergy abuse of minors should remain in leadership," the petition states.
James Franklin started the petition "Cardinal Wuerl Should Resign," which has gained more than 6,000 signatures. The petition notes that Cdl. Wuerl "was complicit in covering up sexual abuse of children by multiple priests, shuffling around priests who'd abused children and publicly praising priests he knew had abused children."
LifeSiteNews is hosting another petition, "Cardinal Wuerl needs to resign," which currently has about 6,400 signatures.
"As bishop of Pittsburgh, Wuerl knew about predatory priests and shuffled them to different dioceses, putting more children at risk," the petition says.
As Church Militant reported, Wuerl paid hush money to a priest who was part of a homosexual pederast ring in exchange for his silence on other priests' illegal sexual conduct. Father George Zirwas was part of a ring of Pittsburgh priests who used whips and chains on teen altar boys plied with drugs and alcohol and passed around for sex. In spite of multiple complaints over the course of approximately a decade, starting in 1987 up through 1996, Wuerl reassigned Zirwas from parish to parish, only placing him on a permanent leave of absence in 1996 after yet another complaint of homosexual assault on a male teen.
The Pennsylvania grand jury report detailes Wuerl's hush money to Zirwas:
Zirwas informed the Diocese [in 1996] that he had knowledge of other Pittsburgh Diocese priests' involvement in illegal sexual activity. In exchange for this information, he demanded that his sustenance payments be increased.
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.
Father Zirwas moved to Florida, then Cuba — where he was murdered in 1996 by a gay prostitute.
The day after the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released, Washington Examiner's commentary editor, Tim Carney, appeared on FoxNews, blasting Cdl. Wuerl for dismissing the report as "stories." Carney was present when Cdl. Wuerl celebrated Mass for the Feast of the Assumption of Mary and made a statement about the grand jury report during Mass.
Even The Washington Post ran a column calling for the resignation of Cdl. Wuerl, highlighting his use of confidentiality agreements with victims, demanding silence as part of settlements, and his failure to report abuse allegations to police. It noted that Cdl. Wuerl "advocated for a convicted predator at sentencing and provided a $11,542.68 lump-sum payment to the disgraced priest after his release from prison."
Franklin further argued that "cardinals and bishops who ignored or covered up abuses and criminal acts and knowingly allowed priests to inflict harm on others were collaborating in the evil and must resign or be removed."
He blasted their excuses of weak policies or that they've learned from past mistakes, saying these "neither undo the damage nor in any way justify the past enabling of these evil, harmful, criminal and immoral acts."
Franklin intends to present his petition to the president of the USCCB, Cdl. Daniel DiNardo, the U.S. papal nuncio, Abp. Christophe Pierre, Cdls. Kevin Farrell, Blase Cupich, Sean O'Malley, Joseph Tobin, Timothy Dolan, James Harvey and Pope Francis.
Technically, Cdl. Wuerl has already tendered his resignation. He submitted is as a matter of formality on his 75th birthday two years ago. Pope Francis did not accept the resignation then, although he could accept it at any time. In response to the calls for Cdl. Wuerl to resign, canon lawyer Ed Peters tweeted: "If Cdl. Wuerl is still the Archbishop of Washington it is because Pope Francis wants him to be the Archbishop of Washington. Wuerl's resignation from that office was submitted more than two years ago."
*8/22/2018: This article was updated to include information about a third petition.