Cardinal Wuerl Resigns with Pope’s Blessing – Insults Victims and Ignores the Coverup

For immediate release, October 12, 2018

Statement by Becky Ianni, SNAP Treasurer, Local DC SNAP leader, (703) 801-6044

We are thankful that Pope Francis has finally accepted the resignation of Cardinal Wuerl, who led the Archdiocese of Washington for many years. We hope that this action will bring healing to victims of clergy sexual abuse and relief to Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington.

However, for Pope Francis to praise Cardinal Wuerl and to call him a ”shepherd” is insulting to all victims of clergy abuse and especially to those who may have been harmed under his watch. What shepherd places the most vulnerable of his flock in harm’s way? The Pope calls these actions “some mistakes”, this is another knife in the heart of those who have already suffered at the hands of the Catholic church.  If the Pope truly wants to protect children and help victims to heal he needs to fire and publicly admonish any Bishop that has enabled perpetrators by concealing their crimes from law enforcement and the public.

In addition, Pope Francis must take additional steps to show victims and parishioners that he is earnest about protecting children. He should turn over all Vatican records on child sex crimes to secular authorities. He should demand that every Cardinal and Bishop post the names of all the accused on diocesan websites. Finally, the Pope should tell all Cardinals and Bishops to stand with survivors and advocates in the fight to change outdated criminal and civil statute of limitations laws.

Cardinal Wuerl's removal is a good first step, but Pope Francis should not stop there.

Cardinal Wuerl was the Bishop of Pittsburgh for 18 years, from 1988 to 2006. He was named in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report over 200 times and was implicated in the cover up of child sex crimes which put innocent children in harm's way.

When the report was first released the Cardinal should have hung his head in shame and apologized for his part in covering up the sexual abuse of children. Instead he defended himself, saying “I think I did everything that I possibly could.” The Grand Jury Report found otherwise.

Cardinal Wuerl also referred to his enabling of predators as "errors in judgement.” Clergy abuse survivor and volunteer DC SNAP Leader Becky Ianni says, "This is disrespectful and hurtful. Putting children at risk of sexual abuse is much more than merely an 'error in judgment.' Child sexual abuse is a crime, and so is its cover up."

The Grand Jury Report documented in detail the sexual abuse of children by Ernst Paone, George Zirwas and Richard Zula. With respect to Fr. Paone, the Report stated: “In spite of Wuerl’s statements to the Vatican, the clear and present danger to children was hidden and kept secret from parishioners in three states." ( Page #229) As a bishop, Cardinal Wuerl had the ability to remove these three priests at any time. His failure to notify the civil authorities also allowed the statute of limitations on these crimes to run out.

  • SNAP feels that the only way to learn the whole truth about any diocese or archdiocese is through a secular investigation where the investigators have subpoena power and can give an unbiased report. We hope the that the U.S Attorney’s office in DC will launch an investigation into child sex crimes and their coverups. Probes have already been initiated in 13 other states, including New York and New Jersey.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been working for thirty years to support victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings and has more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is 

Contact  -   Becky Ianni (703-801-6044,, Tim Lennon (415-312-5820,, Melanie Sakoda, (925-708-6175,


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  • John Spencer
    commented 2018-10-14 15:11:35 -0500
    I am a former Catholic. Raised Catholic and was considering come back to the church. However, the handling of the Cardinal Wuerl by Pope Francis is appalling and a disgrace to the Catholic Church and all of it’s members. Pope Francis needs to resign and be replaced with someone who will correct the problem with pedophile priest and gay priest as well. There are biblical references that are quite clear. Pope Francis is a disgrace to the papal office.
    Looks more like a Papal ‘Good ole Boy Network’. Catholics need to speak up.
    I wish them well.

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