School drops archbishop’s name amid sex-abuse report fallout
A Roman Catholic high school will shed the name of Washington’s archbishop after he was cited in a sweeping grand jury report as having allowed priests accused of sexually abusing children to be reassigned or reinstated while he was Pittsburgh’s bishop.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh said Wednesday that Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl made the request to remove his name from Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School, and that school and diocese officials accepted it.
The sign out front of the suburban Pittsburgh school was discovered vandalized Monday, with red spray paint obscuring Wuerl’s name as some Catholics called for his resignation or ouster, and a petition circulated to remove his name from the high school.
The 77-year-old Wuerl has defended himself, saying he acted to protect children, promptly investigate allegations and strengthen policies as understanding of child abuse evolved. He has said he will not resign.
In its statement, the Pittsburgh Diocese cited what it said was Wuerl’s Aug. 16 letter: “In light of the circumstances today and lest we in any way detract from the purpose of Catholic education ... I respectfully ask you to remove my name from it. In this way, there should be no distraction from the great success of the school and, most importantly, the reason for the school – the students.” Wuerl was Pittsburgh’s bishop from 1988 through 2006.
In one case cited in the grand jury report released Aug. 14, Wuerl – acting on a doctor’s recommendation – enabled priest William O’Malley to return to active ministry as a canonical consultant in 1998 despite allegations of abuse lodged against him in the past and his own admission that he was sexually interested in adolescents.
In his appointment letter, Wuerl wrote, “At the same time I welcome you back to priestly ministry following your leave of absence for personal reasons. Your willingness to serve in this capacity and to be of assistance ... is a sign of your dedication and priestly zeal,” the grand jury report said.