In her words: Why a devout Catholic started a petition to remove Wuerl

Cross necklaces given to victims by Pittsburgh diocese priests marked them for other predators in the church. (Courtesy Pennsylvania attorney general)
WASHINGTON — Many area Catholics are coming to terms with a Pennsylvania grand jury’s report that alleges sexual abuse by hundreds of priests and that details Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s involvement.

Days after the report was released, a Maryland woman posted a petition to remove the archbishop of Washington. So far, more than 60,000 have signed.

“Most people will not read that report just because it’s so raw and so offensive. I can’t even get past a certain part of it. But I think that it helps if people know what’s in it,” said Winnie Obike.

A lifelong, practicing Catholic, Obike understands the difficulty in processing the allegations of abuse, cover-up and apathy toward sexual abuse by priests.

“There is no greater injustice than to know that your wounds have been acknowledged by the world but not by your church,” she said. “The world is acknowledging and validating the wounds of the men and women who are abused, but the church is not. … How do I know that? Because they are not removing people from leadership — that’s what the world wants to see.”

Read the Pennsylvania grand jury report here.

Her petition, posted Aug. 16, is titled “Remove Cardinal Wuerl Now,” which Obike feels is the only way the archdiocese can truly move forward.

“He [Cardinal Wuerl] has to understand some of the cover-up in there, some of the sort of pain to keep people silent, some of the shuffling of priests. That stuff stinks to high heavens in the real world. No one wants to even know that you ever did such a thing and that you still get to keep your leadership position,” Obike said.

It’s not only a question of the church showing it can self-police and react appropriately to criminal allegations, she said, but it’s also a way to give worshipers a leader who they know was not behind a scandal.

“It is no longer about him. It is no longer about the archdiocese, It’s now about the faith and the trust and the confidence that Catholics have in their leadership,” she said.

WTOP has made several attempts to reach Wuerl for comment in the days since the report’s release last week.

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Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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