NEW YORK — Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the embattled archbishop of Washington, was interrupted while celebrating Sunday Mass by a protester enraged by comments he made regarding the Church’s response to clerical sex abuse.
“We have all been touched by recent events in the Church. This parish Mass is really not the place to discuss them but I wanted just to offer a brief thought,” Wuerl began his remarks.
“Where do we go from here as a Church? Where do we go in the light of so much that has bruised and hurt all of us? As a Church we recognize as we said in the homily why we are gathered here. We are people of faith. We’re a family of faith. We can believe as we do in the healing power of god’s holy spirit,” he continued.
Wuerl went on to mention the pope specifically, at which point his remarks were disturbed.
“Shame on you,” yelled mass-goer Brian Garfield before exiting the service.
Over the past three months, the Catholic Church in the United States has been roiled by a crisis over the Church’s handing of sexual abuse.
In June, reports first surfaced that former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Wuerl’s predecessor, had engaged in decades of abuse of seminarians and at least one minor. Pope Francis then took the rare decision of removing McCarrick from the College of Cardinals in response.
Such news was followed by the devastating details found in a Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report released in August that chronicled over seven decades of systematic abuse of over 1,000 victims at the hands of 300 predator priests.
Among the names mentioned in the report is Wuerl, who is listed nearly 200 times with questions over his handling of certain abuser priests during his time as bishop of Pittsburgh in the 1980s and 1990s.
Since then, the Catholic leader of the nation’s capital has faced pressure in some corners to resign his post.
Wuerl, who is 77-years old, has formally given his letter of resignation to the pope — an action mandated by canon law at age 75 — yet the pope, to date, has not accepted it.
Francis himself has come under attack over the past two weeks by the former papal representative to the United States who published an explosive 11-page letter alleging that Francis knew about McCarrick’s history and proceeded to cover it up.
While serious questions have been raised about the credibility of such claims, Francis has refused to comment on them.
At Mass on Sunday, Wuerl said Francis was “the object of considerable animosity,” at which point he was interrupted by Garfield.
Garfield later told CNN that he is a lifelong Catholic and angered by Wuerl’s handling of cases in Pennsylvania.
“I don’t think he is a monster but I wish he would talk less about defending himself and more about his failings,” said Garfield.
“Yes, my brothers and sisters, shame. I wish I could re-do everything over these thirty years as a bishop and each time get it always right. That’s not the case,” Wuerl said in response to the outburst.
“I do think together asking God’s mercy, pleading God’s grace, recognizing we can move into light, I simply ask you to keep me, keep all of those that have been abused, all of those who have suffered, all of the Church in your prayers,” he continued.
“We adore you Christ and praise you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world,” he concluded to applause.