PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Cardinal Donald Wuerl has heard the cries from Catholics to step down while acknowledging his own failings.
“Shame. I wish I could redo everything over the last 30 years as a bishop and each time get it always right. That is not the case,” Wuerl said in early September after a parishioner stormed out during Mass.
Wuerl now says he will travel to Rome to discuss his possible resignation with Pope Francis but after meeting with priests in his archdiocese, it seems it’s a step he’s now willing to take.
“It was clear that some decision, sooner rather than later, on my part is an essential aspect so that this archdiocesan Church we all love can move forward,” Wuerl said in part in a letter to priests. “Our discernment here, I believe, has indicated the way forward to bring healing and a new beginning at the service of this Church.”
Wuerl has long been seen as a reformer in the area of clergy sex abuse.
“Despite the things that have been spoken about, he did a heck of a lot to address the issue of sexual abuse,” Bishop David Zubik said.
Shortly after becoming Bishop of Pittsburgh in 1988, he established the first independent review board to evaluate and recommend actions in cases of abuse, a model later adopted nationally.
In 1993, he defied the Vatican in refusing to reassign predator priest Anthony Cipolla, but the grand jury report also cites cases in which Wuerl acted slowly in removing priests from ministry.
Those priests include Father George Zirwas, who was later found to have run a pornography ring with convicted priests Richard Zula and Robert Wolk who photographed and shared pictures of naked boys.
The diocese became aware of complaints of sexual abuse against Zirwas before Wuerl became bishop, but the grand jury says despite additional allegations, Wuerl kept Zirwas in ministry until 1994. Zirwas moved to Miami and was later murdered in Cuba.
Zubik says he cannot predict what Wuerl would decide.
“I’m sure Cardinal Wuerl has prayed about having this meeting with the pope and that will be a very personal communication between the two of them in person,” Zubik said.
No date has been set for that meeting.