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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – For the first time since the release of the grand jury report on sex abuse in six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses, Cardinal Donald Wuerl is speaking out.

The former bishop of Pittsburgh says he hopes that people have not lost faith in him as a leader.

“Think of, and he says this in the report, how many people I removed? How many priests I removed. So, it’s not really exact to say we just showed a disdain for the victims, I met with every victim. Anyone that would come forward, I met with them and I’d have to say more than once shared a tear with them as they or their parents told the story,” Cardinal Wuerl said.

(Photo Credit: CBS News)

During his first sit-down interview with Fox 5 in Washington, D.C., Cardinal Wuerl focused on the actions he did take.

“In my efforts from the time that I reached Pittsburgh on through today, I have tried to do my very best to deal with this whole question of allegations against a priest. Now, remember were talking about a long spectrum of time. So, how we dealt with things in the late 80s and early 90s is different in the way we would today,” he said.

The nearly 900-page grand jury report mentions Cardinal Wuerl’s name more than 200 times.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro raised concerns that Wuerl’s so-called inaction, or decision to not involve law enforcement denotes a cover up.

Wuerl said he put very stringent regulations in place during his time as bishop in Pittsburgh.

“Part of my anger and part of the revulsion I felt was we thought we had this well under control. The report goes back before the charter. It goes all the way back 70 years and when you look back and you see all of that, it sounds as if we didn’t do anything, but when you look at the actual numbers from 2002 on, those numbers dropped dramatically,” Wuerl said.

Wuerl said there’s no way to change what happened other to admit there were awful things that happened and obviously there wasn’t a mechanism in place to see that they didn’t happen.

He said going forward, things will be different.

Meanwhile, an online petition is seeking to have his name removed from Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School.

Watch Andy Sheehan’s report —

 

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is calling for Wuerl and Bishop David Zubik to step down.

“SNAP is asking for the resignation of Bishop Zubik and Cardinal Wuerl because they were involved in the cover-up,” Frances Samber, with SNAP, said.

KDKA-TV’s Andy Sheehan: “Do these allegations against you hinder you or prevent you from continuing on as the pastor of this diocese?”
Zubik: “I hope not. I think I’ve done an awful lot of good and I think I can say honestly, absolutely I did not do anything that would be part of a cover-up.”

The report accuses Wuerl and Zubik of covering up for a pedophile priest named Ernest Paone, who had left the diocese years before and gone out west. Paone was accused of molesting boys in the 1960s, but when he requested a transfer from Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the report says Wuerl and Zubik withheld the information, keeping it in confidential files.

Both Wuerl and Zubik dispute this, saying the files from the ’60s were in a warehouse and they were unaware of Paone’s abuse history. They say once they became aware, they forwarded on that information.

“It was not handled secretly. It was handled the best way it could have at that time,” Zubik said.

Although Zubik concedes they could have acted more forcefully to remove Paone, both he and Wuerl believe the rest of their records show that they acted vigorously to root out offenders and protect children.

Neither Zubik nor Wuerl say they have any intention of resigning.