Local deacon at high-profile parish calls on Wuerl to resign

File - In this June 30, 2015, file photo Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, speaks during a news conference at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. North Catholic High School, a Roman Catholic high school will shed the name of Wuerl, who was cited in a sweeping grand jury report as having allowed priests accused of sexual misconduct with children to be reassigned or reinstated while he was Pittsburgh’s bishop. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

WASHINGTON — A highly-visible deacon at St. Matthew’s Cathedral is adding to the calls on the Archbishop of Washington to resign over the handling of sex abuse allegations.

In a letter sent Saturday by James Garcia to Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Garcia wrote that he would no longer participate in any mass led by Wuerl. Garcia serves as the master of ceremony for St. Matthew’s, often standing beside Wuerl during major services.

The letter, which was published on a blog, says, “I am firmly convinced that the events of the last several weeks — particularly the publication of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report — demand an unequivocal response, especially from those of us ordained for ministerial service to the Church.”

It goes on to say, “I cannot, in good conscience, continue to attend to you personally, whether as an assisting deacon or a master of ceremony.”

St. Matthew’s didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The letter continues, “I implore you, for the good of the Church we both love so dearly: Act with courage and humility. Relinquish your position as Archbishop without delay.

“I am firmly convinced that genuine healing, first and foremost of the victims of sexual abuse, but also of the Church more broadly, requires precisely this response from you. I am firmly convinced that justice demands nothing less.”

Wuerl was named in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report Garcia referenced, which details over a thousand accounts of abuse in the state over decades. It also details how church officials protected accused priests and attempted to cover up the accusations. Wuerl led the Pittsburgh Ardiocese from 1988-2006.

“I think we’ve reached a point where there’s a genuine — and this has been true for some time — a genuine crisis of confident in the leadership of the church,” Garcia told WTOP in an interview.

Wuerl is also under scrutiny for his handling of sex abuse allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington. Wuerl has denied knowing about any such allegations.

Wuerl visited the Pope in Rome last month, where Pope Francis advised that Wuerl talk to his clergy within the archdiocese about whether or not he should resign. According to The Wall Street Journal, that meeting happened earlier this month, and some suggested that Wuerl resign to give the church a clean slate.

“We need to continue to make sure that the focus of everything that the church does is oridented toward healing the abuse victims and those who, like me, feel betrayed and alienated on some level from the church,” Garcia said.


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