Go with God, Cardinal Wuerl

On this significant day for the Archdiocese of Washington and the universal Church, I want you to know that I receive the news of the Holy Father’s acceptance of Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s resignation with mixed feelings.

I hope you will understand that he has been a spiritual Father to me since 2006 when he came to Washington as our Archbishop. I have flourished under his leadership. He appointed me in 2007 as pastor to my current parish, which I love so much. I have served him and the Archdiocese on the Priest Council, the College of Consultors, the Priest Personnel Board, and as a Dean. I have also been the coordinator for the Traditional Latin Mass and worked closely with the Communications Office for many years. He called an Archdiocesan Synod in 2014 and has carefully implemented its decrees, and drafted many helpful policies, both financial and pastoral, that have assisted this archdiocese to be ship-shape. He has also founded a minor Seminary here and our vocations to the priesthood are vigorous, currently 75 men are in formation for us.

This very blog of the Archdiocese was his idea and when he asked me to write for it I had no idea that it would reach so far. My writing has never been micromanaged and only twice in ten years was I ever asked to remove a post I had written. I am grateful for the support, encouragement and platform I have received.

In all these ways and more I found him to be a top-notch administrator, careful, just, cautious and measured; even if, at times to a fault. Sometimes I wanted him to be passionate and fiery about this or that issue! Though some in recent news cycles have called him arrogant and extravagant, I have found him to be often shy and very aware that a bishop does not have unlimited powers. His lifestyle, from my limited vantage point was not extravagant but simple, even austere.

In this sense, it causes me special sadness that he resigns under a cloud where many see only what they know from the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. We can never forget the victims of sexual abuse by clergy and we owe them every effort to eradicate predators from clerical ranks. And whatever the findings of the Grand Jury, accurate or inaccurate, I can say that, in his time here in Washington, Cardinal Wuerl has been very serious in enforcing the policies of the Dallas Charter and ensuring the safety and flourishing of the young people under our care.

However, even prior to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report there were problems that arose with Cardinal Wuerl’s response to the revelations about Archbishop McCarrick. He presented an institutional and legal face and spoke mostly by issuing disclaimers. He seemed to see the crisis as something to manage as an administrator more than a father and shepherd.

I would have preferred if he could have been less protective of the institution of the Church and been more like a grieved shepherd, angry that one of his predecessors had abused some of his flock, even his seminarians and young priests; angry that two other bishops had paid hush-money and not informed him or warned him. I wish I could have heard him tell God’s people that he was angry and disgusted and was going to move heaven and earth to get to the bottom of this scandal; that he would lead the charge to fight for us all so that this would not happen again.

Only late in the crisis did Cardinal Wuerl come to see that such a stance was what people needed and looked for. A few weeks ago, he wrote to God’s people in the Archdiocese a letter asking forgiveness for anything he had done to cause hurt. It was a beautiful letter and many in my congregation wept as I read it, (including me); others applauded. It was a breakthrough and a time of healing.  

Yet from early on, Cardinal Wuerl became the national face of this crisis and a kind of lightning rod for people’s justified anger at the McCarrick case. At some point being the face of the crisis  took on a life of its own and there was little or nothing the Cardinal could say or do to ameliorate this. I think, in many ways, a number of other bishops and clergy deserve greater scorn and scrutiny.

It is clear that there were numerous attempts to inform the Church of the concerns regarding Archbishop McCarrick that were brushed aside or received scant attention from bishops and Church officials both here in this country and going right to the top in Rome.

Only recently has Rome agreed to allow a thorough investigation to begin. I applaud this, since the allegations are serious and need investigation. This is not merely so that justice will be done, but also to be sure that clerical abuse is no longer tolerated or overlooked at any level. The current victims of clerical sexual abuse surely deserve such an investigation to be thorough and credible.

About a month ago, Cardinal Wuerl asked to meet with us, his priests, to discern with him if resignation was the best path forward for healing and progress for the Archdiocese in this situation. We sadly, and with great respect for him, came to the consensus that such a time had come. We were moved to be included in that discernment and he was clearly moved as well. It was a time of truth, but also of respect, concern, admiration and mutual charity.

The Cardinal went to Rome last week with the report that it was a time for new leadership in Washington and requested that the Holy Father now accept the resignation he had tendered almost three years before on his 75th Birthday. This morning the Pope has announced that acceptance.

As you can see, in his statement this morning Cardinal Wuerl reiterates his apology and his request for pardon for any past errors in judgment. He also wishes to present his resignation as a sign of love for the people of this Archdiocese and prays it will be a way forward toward healing for victims and resolutions that will further protect God’s good people.

I pray that none of you will forget the many ways the Lord has blessed us through Cardinal Wuerl. It is too easy to demonize people we have not met or when we are angry, even justifiably so. But the Cardinal is a human being, and one of God’s sons. He deserves and requires our love and prayers as he departs. Whatever errors in judgment have occurred, please remember his request for forgiveness.

I have known and worked with Cardinal Donald Wuerl over the years and it is very painful for me to see him go, especially under these circumstances. As I said, he has been a spiritual father and leader, and has confirmed me in my own ministry for the past 12 years. Go with God, Cardinal Wuerl, go with God.


41 Replies to “Go with God, Cardinal Wuerl”

  1. This is an important post to read, as a pewsitter who has angrily demanded #WuerlMustGo. You caused me to pause and look at my own response as a bit too angry and shrill. You are absolutely right: ++ Wuerl is being held accountable for our anger about McCarrick. Especially those of us in St Matthews Cathedral who came to know McC, and saw his constant political operations as a thorn, but put up with him because we respect the office, to discover he was an odious predator is simply…mind/heart exploding. We wanted someone to pay for McC’s sins, so we focused on Card Wuerl. I am saying a Hail Mary now. Again, thank you for sharing your reasonable perspective. May God Bless your ministry.

  2. We live in times that insists we put people in one of two camps. People are:
    -Good or they’re bad
    -Right or wrong
    -Saint or sinner
    -Saved or damned
    -Well intentioned or evil
    -Fer us or ag’in us
    -One of ‘us’ or one of ‘them’

    Of course, we’re all a mixed bag. As you say, monsignor, there was plenty of good about Cardinal Wuerl. But the court of public opinion rendered its verdict, and it wasn’t looking for a lot of nuance.

  3. There is a disconnect within the Church between doctrine and practice, recieve communion and play on the cliff for laity and priest alike, one foot saying doctrine, the other foot swinging in the air saying my conscience has no footing but don’t worry I am balance and will not be able to fall as they
    gleefully play on the cliff. Blessed is the Shepherd and sheep who run and play without going to close to the edge and tragedy.

  4. If I remember well, one of the times you removed a post was when you expressed your opinion on a certain St Patrick’s day parade in New York City. You were absolutely right then and you are absolutely right today. God bless you, Father, and keep you strong.

  5. During his brief time at the Archdiocese of Seattle in the 1980’s, Cardinal Wuerl confirmed me. When he placed his hand on my head, I felt something–similar to electricity, but different–flow into me. I believe it was the Holy Spirit.
    I remember looking up at him with shock, and seeing him smile as if he knew.
    That is the Cardinal Wuerl I know, and pray for.
    Thank you Msgr Pope and God Bless you.
    Jill Clark

  6. I have read your blog, Msgr. Pope, from almost the beginning and have often appreciated your perspective and insights -especially your love for the writings of Father Dubay- but here I must disagree with you.

    I am a lay employee of the Archdiocese of Washington and posting anonymously as I feel there is a culture of retribution for dissent from the public image that the Archdiocese would like to present where I work. I have a long work history within the Church from a small non-diocesan Catholic workplaces to the largest national Catholic organization. I have also worked in the secular world.

    The Church exists in the world and therefore the evils of the secular world are just as present in the Church. In the ADW, I find this takes form of valuing public image, respectability, and the influx of funds above all else.

    Anyone striving to live an authentically Catholic life finds himself in opposition to the culture and mores of the day, but I have never experienced so many obstacles to following the Church’s teachings as have been put in my way by my employer, the Archdiocese of Washington. This is *especially* true when it comes to living out the vocation of Catholic marriage- in particular the “hard teachings” on sexuality and human life. Lip-service is paid to these teachings by Cardinal Wuerl and the Archdiocese, but the Archdiocese’s policies place untenable burdens on employees who try to live out these teachings.

    This is an abuse of power, and the abuse of power is at the root of much of the anger directed at Cardinal Wuerl. I find it unbelievable that Cardinal Wuerl did not know of McCarrick’s activities. It is entirely believable that McCarrick’s character was ignored because of the prestige and influence he commanded because respectability and position in the world are valued above living out the teaching of the Church in this Archdiocese.

    I am sure Cardinal Wuerl is not solely responsible for this culture within in the ADW, but I cannot see that he has done anything to combat it and insofar as he enabled the deception of McCarrick he has perpetuated that evil culture. Insofar as he has supported the Church’s teachings in statements and homilies, but put obstacles in the way of the living out of those teachings, he has perpetuated that evil culture. And it *is* the responsibility of the Archbishop of Washington to combat that which threatens the spiritual good of those in his care, regardless of whether other bishops are “more deserving of scorn,” etc.

    I will be glad whenever Cardinal Wuerl finally departs. I do not expect change within in the ADW – and certainly not speedy change to such an entrenched adoption of the evils of the surrounding secular culture. But even though it is not realistic, I cannot help but desire an Archbishop of a decidedly different stripe.

    1. I’m an employee of ADW too. And I can tell you and everyone else that Cardinal Wuerl is 100 percent solid on marriage and human sexuality and other Catholic teachings, as evidenced by his preaching, his writings (including his book The Marriage God Wants for You, his blog postings and articles, etc.), and the policies he pursued now and under the recently-departed director of marriage ministries who is unquestionably and enthusiastically orthodox.

      It is not “lip service,” Wuerl actually believes and promotes what the Church teaches and has taught. True, he is not a “Theology of the Body guy,” but he has undeniably been a fierce advocate of marriage and family — particularly the true meaning of marriage as the union of man and woman — and has defended the faith and the Church against attacks by society and government when most other bishops have been rather mealy-mouthed about it.

      Perhaps on the local level, the parish level, you have had a different experience, but do not blame Wuerl for that. The responsibility for that is at that immediate level — parish, pastors, etc.

      Come next year or the year after, I think many will rue the day that they demanded that Wuerl leave. He was a better friend to hard-line orthodox Catholics than people give him credit for.

      1. But when did he know about McCarrick’s abuse of seminarians, and what did he do or not do about that? If he did know and not uncover, then he was not a good father to his spiritual sons, who are discerning to be our future priests.

        1. But we don’t know the answer to these questions, do we? Maybe that is because the Catholic Church is not a democracy. If so, we might be inclined to assume that he new and did not act and that the timing makes trusting him further imprudent.

          I’m struck by the divergence between the two employees of Wuerl’s Washington diocese as to his doctrinal orthodoxy above. A similar dispute has been raging about the Pope. Is he true to the Magisterium or is he trying to subvert it? All that I can say is that if he is the evidence does not seem clear to me. Nor does it with regard to Cardinal Wuerl, so I might conclude that all I can do about the matter is pray since its above me. However, I think we are also obliged to try and find out the answers to these questions as best we can.

          1. Some people claim that Jesus was indifferent to doctrine. They like to imagine him as a man who went about practicing random acts of kindness without a care for what people believed. . . . But we see in Jesus’ exchange with Simon Peter that this is simply not true. He was, in fact, intensely concerned about doctrine. . . .If the Church is concerned about doctrine, it is because Jesus made it that way. He wanted his disciples to get it right, because to get it wrong is to worship the wrong god.
            “Doctrine is key to identity — and not just Jesus’ identity, but our own as well. What we believe about Jesus sets us apart, defines us. To be Catholic means something specific. It means to hold certain doctrines as true and to reject others as false, just as the apostles did, just as Jesus did. It means to stand freely on the side of the martyrs, and not as a slave to the dominant culture, the reigning government, or the latest fashions. It means to love not only “my Jesus,” but the Jesus who really lived, who still lives, and who truly saves.
            “The first Christians knew Jesus as every subsequent generation of Catholics have known Jesus: through the Scriptures he inspired and the Church he founded. These are not two ways, but one; and so there cannot be “my Jesus” and “their Jesus.” As we read in the Letter to the Hebrews, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching” (13:8-9)

            — Cardinal Donald Wuerl, “Faith That Transforms Us”

            Across the Church we deal in many instances, but particularly in most of the so-called first world countries, with a dramatic reduction in the practice of the faith . . . This current situation is rooted in the upheavals of the 1970s and 80s, decades in which there was manifest poor catechesis or miscatechesis at so many levels of education. We faced the hermeneutic of discontinuity that permeated so much of the milieu of centers of higher education and was also reflected in aberrational liturgical practice. Entire generations have become disassociated from the support systems that facilitated the transmission of faith. It is as if a tsunami of secular influence has swept across the cultural landscape, taking with it such societal markers as marriage, family, the concept of the common good and objective right and wrong. Tragically, the sins of a few have encouraged a distrust in some of the very structures of the Church herself. . . .
            “Secularism and rationalism have created an ideology that subjugates faith to reason. Religion becomes a personal matter. Doctrine in matters of faith is reduced to idiosyncratic positions without any possibility of ever claiming universal truth. . . . At the center of our Christian faith is Christ. But the Christ we proclaim is the Christ of revelation, the Christ understood in his Church, the Christ of tradition and not of personal, sociological, or aberrant theological creation. On our own, none of us could come to know the mind, heart, love and identity of God. Jesus came to reveal the truth – about God and about ourselves.

            — Cardinal Wuerl, Report at the Synod on the New Evangelization

          2. “One may choose to be a member of the Catholic Church or not. No one is forced to belong to the Church. . . If one becomes a member of the Church, he or she is expected to believe what the Church believes and attempt to live it out as best he or she can, including participating in the Mass and other sacraments, providing a good example and witness to others, and helping others to know Christ.

            “When we come to the institutions of the Church – its parishes, schools, universities, charitable organizations, health care facilities and more – these too must reflect a genuine Catholic identity with visible communion with the Church, both universal and local, and fidelity to Catholic teaching. . . .

            “Furthermore, a particular responsibility is incumbent upon the bishop with regard to Catholic institutions and their Catholic identity (Veritatis splendor, 116). His is the responsibility to see that our Catholic institutions are places where the faith permeates the culture. Our schools, for example, at all levels, should provide the environment where revealed truth, reason and charity are engaged in an ongoing effort to shed greater light on the human condition. In whatever area of endeavor, the Catholic identity of the effort should be found . . . And the message it voices should exhibit a vision of life that is rooted in Christ, articulated in his Gospel and manifested in his Church. . . .

            “Similarly, those who agree to assist the Church in her mission and ministries represent the public face of the Church. Whether Catholic or non-Catholic, they should respect our Catholic identity and avoid behavior that contradicts the very mission of the Catholic institution. The wider community benefits from the presence of authentically Catholic institutions and faithful Catholic disciples because the richness of Catholic teaching can engage the secular culture in a way that the light of the wisdom of God is brought to bear on the issues of the day. On the other hand, members of the Church, those who serve in Catholic ministries, those people served by them, and the community at large are all impoverished, not enriched, when the ministry’s Catholic identity is diluted or lukewarm. . . .

            “We must remain true to who we are. We cannot be expected to embrace error and give up our identity which inspired us to form ministries of teaching, healing and charity in the first place. For those in the Church, as well as those who agree to assist in her ministries, everyone is held to the same standard. We all are at the service of the mission of Christ, and no one can claim a right simultaneously to work for the Church and to work against her belief. . . . .

            “More than once someone has remarked to me, “The Church needs to get with the times.” A variety of books have been written arguing that Christianity – and the Catholic Church in particular – must change. Yet Jesus did not change his message just because some who heard it felt it was a “hard saying” (John 6:60). No one should be surprised that the Church continues to be faithful to Jesus’ Gospel – his teaching. After all, it is his message, his Church. We are not free to change either.”

            –Cardinal Wuerl, “Being Catholic Today: Catholic Identity in an Age of Challenge,” pastoral letter

          3. “Jesus said that he came into the world to testify to the truth (John 18:37) and so must we who are his disciples. It is the Church’s duty “to serve humanity in different ways, but one way in particular imposes a responsibility of a quite special kind: the diakonia of the truth” (Fides et Ratio, 2). Central to this mission is proclaiming the truth of the human person. It is only in this truth that one can be free.

            “This service in the truth is particularly needed today. One of the enervating forces of our culture is the assertion that everything is up for grabs. What was once grasped as objective truth is now dismissed as mere construct, and there is a growing relativism that seeks to reconstruct the most fundamental realities.

            “In recent years, we saw a societal redefinition of marriage and family. Now the concept of humanity itself is called into question with an aggressive “gender” ideology which holds that whether a person is male or female is not an objective reality, but is subjectively determined. Increasingly, those who do not go along with this new order are denounced and ostracized as bigoted. It is as if we all must now affirm that the world is flat lest we be condemned of discrimination. . . .

            “In the face of this cultural divide, the Church will do what we have always done – what we can only do – and that is to be a beacon of truth in the darkness, lovingly giving voice to what it means to be authentically human and helping people to appreciate themselves as they were created (cf. Amoris Laetitia, 285). This means standing firm in the truth that sexual differentiation is not a construct of the mind, much less a social construct, but is a permanent reality revealed in the body, male or female, whether or not one chooses to acknowledge or accept this reality (Id.). To do otherwise, to not testify to the truth, would be to deny our own identity as Catholics and as a Church.”

            –Cardinal Wuerl, “The Nature of the Human Being, Male or Female,” blog post

            I would say that Wuerl is pretty solid on doctrine and has been a strong defender of the Faith and of the Church. He’s not been perfect. I would have said or done some things differently — but I could say that about anyone in that position. He’s been about as good as one might hope for. Could have been better in a few ways, but could have been horrifically worse in a lot more ways. And the guy who comes next might very well be that worse.

  7. Thank you Monsignor for this post. It certainly gave us a different perspective. My husband and I renewed our wedding vows at the Basilica with Cardinal Wuerl. He took the time to have a picture taken with all the couples. He left a fire burning on my heart when he rendered his homily and how this day was truly Gods blessing. Will continue to pray for him and our church.

  8. Thank you dear Rev.Msgr , for sharing your respect and gratitude as well as the well deserved grief about the situation ; may The Lord ever bless you for bringing to light the honor that is owed the Cardinal .

    There is the O.T. narrative about King David , in his old age, sleeping with two young women, to keep himself warm , but not in a carnal manner .It would have been likely that even if Card Wuerl had heard any thing about Card. McCarrick, he might have assumed that it was rather in the nature of excessive ways , but not the way we see things now , in light of these times .

    Hope the Cardinal would have ample opportunity , in his respected role in Rome , to help The Church in its ongoing mission to bring purity and healing , into families too that are , in one sense , in much worse ways than these issues in The Church.

    After all, even the mafia does not kill its own .

    The Holy Father , inspired by the Holy Spirit thus brings to light , the unity of truth , an area that cuts across all faith lines ; many women now get to see that his Fatherly heart understands what many lives are going through .

    Those words about the’polite demons’ too – ? contracepting couples and its user ways as well as all such areas .

    The Church, having the attention of the general populace too through this
    crisis , thus gets the well deserved platform for its truth .

    Hope Card. Wuerl would be given now the time and means to put into effect means to deal with the issues –

    1- ? a Feast , in honor of The Father , to help heal the Father wound that underlie so many issues and areas .

    2- looking into means to help control the excess appetites in the carnal culture so that couples would not need to use artificial means, by looking for herbal w remedies world over etc .

    Dealing with environmental pollution can be an aspect of same as well .

    3- http://www.loveandmercy.org/background/ – there is the ministry , mentioned at this site , about new evangelisation , with the prophesy of its riches and also related to a site here in U.S , with its special connection to Oct 13th , which, interestingly also has connections to the Holy Father and the Eucharistic miracle ; efforts to look more into such themes here in the U.S , thus to become a source of deliverance for the world at large , through the merits of the Immaculate Conception – hope the Cardinal is getting called into all such glorious endeavors so that many get to see how this whole thing is a blessing for him and the Church .

    The laity too getting to recognize how the lives of penance and reparation asked of the clergy is also applicable to them, that alms giving as reparation thus to replenish and more what has been stolen by the enemy .
    May our Lady of Fatima let the light of truth and mercy shine and dance in all our lives .

  9. “…I wish I could have heard him tell God’s people that he was angry and disgusted and was going to move heaven and earth to get to the bottom of this scandal; that he would lead the charge to fight for us all so that this would not happen again.

    Only late in the crisis did Cardinal Wuerl come to see that such a stance was what people needed and looked for…” – Msgr. Charles Pope

    How could anger and disgust NOT have been his initial public response to this massive, massive tragedy? Well, because in his own words: “This isn’t some massive, massive crisis.”

    I’m sorry, but that is NOT a normal response.

    How can one trust the judgement of a man (a spiritual father, no less!) who reacts to something so vile in this manner?

    I’m glad you had a positive experience with Cardinal Wuerl, but from this parent’s perspective he’s no shepherd. He may be a good diocesan administrator, but he’s no shepherd.

    God help us all!

  10. Did he speak out against gay marriage? Did he give communion to nancy Pelosi and others?

    1. Did he speak out against gay marriage?

      Multiple times — and as a result Catholic Charities is no longer involved in the adoption business. Monsignor Pope has written about Wuerl’s and the archdiocese’s strong defense of marriage against the attacks of the “same-sex marriage” crowd, but here is a sample of what Wuerl wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. Many similar remarks can be found on his blog and other writings —

      What is the nature of marriage?
      Marriage is the word used in many translations across human history to signify the permanent, faithful and fruitful union of one man and one woman. It is the only institution that brings a man and a woman together in a partnership for life directed toward their mutual support and the generation and education of children. This is a human community that predates government. Its meaning is something to be recognized and protected, not reconstructed. Its simplicity is compelling. Its significance, both personal and public, is immeasurable. What promise between two people holds the same weight and consequence as that of a man and a woman who give themselves to each other for life with a view toward creating new life so that humanity might continue? Marriage goes to the nature of the human person. Even if individual men and women are unable to have children for some reason, still it is the nature of man and woman to complement each other in such a way that is fruitful and capable of children. Two persons of the same sex, on the other hand, can never have children by the very nature of such a union.
      No matter what a court, legislator, president or voter may claim to the contrary, the essence of marriage cannot be redefined. Its meaning is intrinsic, grounded in human nature and discoverable by human reason with or without the aid of faith. A culture based on the truth of marriage affirms that men and women are equally important, that they have equal dignity but are not the same. The recognition of the difference between a man and a woman is neither discrimination nor bigotry. It is a statement of reality, of fact.
      What the court has determined demonstrates the limits of civil legislation. We all recognize that the word “marriage” is being used in many different ways. All that civil government can do is address the legal consequences of any specific union it has chosen to call marriage. While there are many other words to describe other human unions, “marriage,” in its intrinsic meaning and basic integrity, will continue to be understood by most people as the coming together of a man and woman committed to live together with the possibility to generate and raise children.
      Far from settling the debate over the meaning of marriage, the Supreme Court decisions have simply reminded all of us that there is a great difference between what a law can decree and what God has created

    2. Wuerl on marriage

      There is also an objective truth to marriage; it has an inherent meaning consistent with right reason, regardless of the enactments of legislatures or the decrees of courts. Marriage existed prior to any and all human government. And since government did not create marriage, it is not within the province of government to arbitrarily recreate it into something else. Rather, human nature, with this complementarity of man and woman, is the foundation of marriage. This is true regardless of one’s religious beliefs and thus is applicable to all. For this reason, it cannot be legitimately or rationally argued that the Church is imposing its faith on people who do not share that faith. Rather, the Church merely points to that truth which is available to anyone who will but look at it.

      Cultures throughout time have recognized that marriage is the faithful union of man and woman, joined in a permanent relationship of self-giving love and an openness to creating new life, for the good of each other and their children. The Church’s efforts to affirm marriage flow from this profoundly human and beautiful vision of fruitful love. And every person, regardless of sexual preference, has an equal right to enter into such genuine marriage, properly understood as the union of a man and woman.

      Even though natural marriage is not dependent upon religion, scripture does confirm this reality. In addition, beyond marriage in this natural state, the marital union of man and woman has been elevated by Jesus to the dignity of a sacrament, an image of the covenant between Christ the Bridegroom and his Holy Bride the Church, thereby confirming and strengthening the human value of marriage.

      A same-sex union is intrinsically contrary to this order of things, natural or sacramental. The word “matrimony” comes from the Latin for mother and condition, that is, the state of openness to motherhood, to creating and nurturing the next generation. Two persons of the same sex simply cannot, by their very nature, be open to producing children. As natural law and biology dictate, this requires both a man and a woman. Whatever else same-sex unions might be, they are not a marriage, just it would be irrational to decree that henceforth adoptions by men are to be called “childbirth” lest someone feel that he is the object of discrimination or a “second class citizen.”

      Every humanly-created law is legitimate insofar as it is consistent with the natural law, recognized by right reason. Thus, where the civil law of courts and legislatures contradicts right reason with respect to marriage, it loses its binding force on conscience (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, n. 6 (2003) (citing John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, n. 71 (1995)).

      For those who have a same-sex attraction, these truths about human sexuality and marriage may be difficult, but please know that you have the love and support of the Church as you make your journey through life. No one needs to face life’s challenges separated from the grace of the Lord and his Church, which seeks only the highest good for her children. May all of us remember that the message of Christ is always one of hope, peace and love.

  11. A capable and able and institutionally focused leader is a CEO, and no Pastor.

    And our crisis today is exactly that. We have CEOs and not holy men as pastors.

    And many are corrupt, while the others culpable in their silence.

    There already should have been a wave of honorable men resigning, and lack of that wave shows just how dishonorable they truly are.

    The only pity I feel is that he is quite alone. He SHOULD be having a great deal of company.

  12. Thank you, Msgr. Pope, for sharing these reflections Cardinal Wuerl, particularly your reflections on that meeting with his priests that everyone points to as being so ultimately decisive.

    I have been a member of a parish in the ADW for 10 years now. During that time, I have experienced Cardinal Wuerl as a principled defender of the faith and a devoted follower of Jesus. I am very sorry to see him go.

    What no one has mentioned, however, is this: It has now been affirmed that a bishop can serve the Church by resigning–even if he feels there are sufficient elements to “justify” his defense.

    On Thursday, June 20, 2013 the Pope asked Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano his opinion of Theodore McCarrick. Archbishop Vigano told him plainly, as former Cardinal Wuerl says was “his duty.”

    I believe that a resignation has been accepted by one who should already have offered his.

  13. As for his public speeches, bravo, but so does Francis.

    But, privately seeking accomdation with the evils of our times, rather than openly and vigorously combating them, is what has been totally lacking.

    He may have spoken of the sanctitiy of marriage, but how much did he ever enforce Church teachings on birth control?…

    Popularity and flow of funds are far too important to preach repentance, to fearlessly preach against sullying Holy Communion if a fornicator, liar, backstabber at work, preventing life itself through artificial birth control or abortion, and to proclaim most folk need to stay in their pew until after Confession that day, if they wish to partake of the True Body Of Christ right there on the altar.

    THIS is what he and most all his brother bishops and priests lack…

    It is a popularity contest and things are negotiable.

    1. how much did he ever enforce Church teachings on birth control?

      Well, I don’t know how one goes about “enforcing” the teachings on birth control. But he did publicly support Humanae Vitae, and spoke out against dissent from it. And he did take the fight in defense of Church teaching on birth control all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

      So there’s that.

      And fairly frequently at his Masses, it was openly, formally and expressly stated that “a person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession.”

      The problem that people seem to have is that he basically insisted that people grow up and have an adult faith, putting the obligation on the person to refrain or not refrain, rather than use the Blessed Sacrament as part of some carrot and stick approach.

      1. Using “the Blessed Sacrament as part of some carrot and stick approach” is not at all a fair characterization of Canon 915.

        1. It is, however, a fair characterization of those people who want to use the Eucharist in that fashion — and almost always with partisan political implications. Before people start complaining about Wuerl, they ought to look to make sure their own motives are pure — and that their own lives are pure else the rule they would impose on others is imposed on them as priests become soul-reading Communion cops.

  14. Very sincere tribute to someone I can tell did nothing but good for you.

    I am, however, more intrigued by your aside: “My writing has never been micromanaged and only twice in ten years was I ever asked to remove a post I had written.”

    Would you consider reflecting on that experience to help your readers understand where your superiors felt you over-stepped? Obviously, considering the body of your work, it begs reflection.

  15. I learned much about the faith from reading the Cardinal’s contributions to Columbia magazine. I’m not from Washington so I know little else about him. His writings helped me when I had returned to the faith after a long absence.

  16. Thank you Monsignor for these very moving words which bring some balance and fairness to the debate and light to “the case”.
    Happy to find a true effort to seek truth and justice here, even in the comments. And to be reminded how the media, even well-intentioned, often present things in a reductive way- we must always be careful and slow to judge.
    It’s good to be able to trust voices like yours, Monsignor. We are all hurting one way or another.
    The Lord bless us all.

  17. Thank you, Monsignor, for your gracious acknowledgment of much of the good that Cardinal Wuerl has done in ADW. Through this all, I have felt he was in some ways unfairly judged, but your silence on this topic restrained me from going overboard.

    We all are capable of doing good or evil, and often we act out of self-interest, or so as not to rock the boat. These last two seem to be signs we are becoming “of this world.” I have committed grave sins, knowing they were sins at the time, yet for personal self-interest committed them anyway. In the 30 years that passed, I have been truly sorry for them, have confessed them, and yet still, there is the memory of them. Macbeth comes to mind. And the evil one preys on our minds.

    I empathize with the Cardinal for his torment, will try to remember him in prayer, and ask for your prayers as well.

    Pax vobiscum,


  18. Unfortunately evil destroys the good with the bad in many incidents. Good people fail their soul when they remain silent but inwardly grieve as evil continues. Child abuse within families come to mind. They may protect their child, but the abuser is not “outed”. Sad that a good man like the Cardinal is paying the price, but more will follow and that is sad too.

  19. I think for me the main reason I thought Wuerl had to go was because of his seemingly close relationship with McCarrick. Talk about horrendous- it’s absolutely not ok to minimize any of the vile things McCarrick did. I have the utmost respect for Monsignor Pope, but I don’t think this article changed my opinion of Cardinal Wuerl. Matt, what would be your response to someone who would point to Wuerls connection to Cardinal McCarrick?

  20. It is hard for me as a lay Catholic to properly assess Cardinal Wuerl’s handling of sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Washington, given my lack of access to adequate information about it. I am prepared to accept Msgr. Pope’s representation of it as accurate to the best of his knowledge.

    But after reading the detailing of the Diocese of Pittsburgh in the Pennsylvania grand jury report, I’m sorry to say that I find it difficult to disagree with Michael Brendan Dougherty’s characterization of His Eminence’s pattern of behavior as that of a liability manager, not a shepherd: “What he instituted was a zero-liability policy for the diocese and a zero-responsibility policy for himself.” In this, unfortunately, he would hardly be alone on the bishop’s bench.

  21. Thank you Mons Pope. I am not from the US, but all of us Catholics around the world are rocked and shaken by this present chapter. I appreciate your balanced and personal perspective especially as many of us are tearing each other apart trying to justify our own varying opinions we subconsciously or consciously laud as ‘infallible’.
    I couldn’t help but think in reading all of this (all other issues considered) how I might come across if placed under such public scrutiny as our bishops? It’s just a sobering thought, and probably the most helpful any of us can have right now… Am I truly living the way Jesus wants me to? Am I weak but trying? Or a whitened sepulchre? I am a sinner but am I accepting and USING the grace that is poured out for me, especially in the sacraments? What impression do I give people? Am I doing my duty? Am I seen to be doing my duty? And if they really knew me? Do I really know myself? No… One thing is for certain, the last judgement is going to be mighty interesting as all of our thoughts and deeds will be laid bare. The truth of our interiors, impossible in this life to know fully will be revealed. Yes, the evil will be totally exposed, some condemned by the world will be exonerated, others accepted as pious will be exposed as corrupt and most of us will be probably be a mixed bag of both.
    God have mercy on us all!

  22. Kudos to Cardinal Wuerl: A minor seminary with 75 men in formation in this day & age is a major accomplishment.

    1. How much credit does he deserve for that, though? A much greater share of the credit, as far as I can tell, goes to the diocesan vocation directors, Catholic high school teachers, pastors, catechists, youth ministers, and others who have directly taught, formed, and encouraged the young men currently enrolled in the seminary – and of course, first and foremost, to those parents who have raised their sons in the faith and have encouraged them to be open to a priestly vocation.

      1. Wuerl can take credit for a “minor seminary with 75 men in formation” because Wuerl is the one who created that seminary (the Saint John Paul II Seminary). And he discovered and appointed those vocation directors and pastors, and encouraged the rest, and has taught often about priestly vocations in the spirit of John Paul II.

  23. You know what is stoking the fire of my anger with the church? Post after post lauding these “great men” who have fallen, these spiritual fathers, with the children being mentioned as an afterthought in a sentence. You want to make it right? Start with talking about what an absolute egregious crime against the church, humanity, these children and their families all of those complicit in decades of abuse has wrought.

    Let’s take a second to think about what these men, and those who were complicit in allowing them to stay in parish ministry, have taken from those children. They stole their childhood. They destroyed their faith foundation. They destroyed their self esteem and self image. They used the church as a weapon to wield over these kids instead of the arms that hold them. The crushed it to dust.

    And now myself, and many other parishioners keep reading our pastors talking about what great men they were. Even worse, we are dismissed when we bring concerns over the safety of our children to our parishes during their faith formation. Told they are virtus trained. Yeah, so was Fr. AJ Cote. So was Brian Werth. Virtus training only tells you who’s been caught. Not who is an abuser? But parish after parish keeps requiring overnight retreats for confirmands. Keeps forcing parents to choose between safety and their children’s religious journey. Instead of taking a step towards parents to reach out a hand of reassurance, they use guilt and tell you how much it wounds them you don’t trust them. They could easily find ways to give children retreats without overnights. They could easily implement programs that form the faith of these children without increasing the opportunity for predators to groom them. Instead, you get indignance over your audacity to ask them why they feel the need to put our children in situations where it is far easier for predators to harm them.

    When the parish priests take a step back and realize the future of the church are these children, perhaps they will focus on them instead of these “great men” who were complicit in their abuse. Perhaps they will form outreach with parents to discuss those fears openly and tailor their faith formations around making the kids as safe as possible. Until then they will never heal the rift that has been formed.

  24. Thank you for opening a dialogue regarding this current crisis within the RCC. I sympathize that the man you know and had helped you is not the same man we see with regard to the sexual abuse scandal. You must be having difficulty in reconciling this in light of your relationship. However, please understand that what has happened here with Wuerl is just considering the circumstances. The church who has looked at this crisis as a management issue, has done grave damage to the faithful, especially the survivors these many many years. The laity has lost their trust in the clergy at whatever level they may reside. What I find most difficult to reconcile myself, is how the clergy does not personally see their own sinfulness in what they have done not only to the survivors, but the the laity, and most importantly God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. How can priests, Bishops, Cardinals and even the Pope, not see the perversion they have committed against God? Does that not cross any of their minds, does their souls not recognize the grave insult they have committed to God? They stand at altar at every Mass and read the Words given to us, they perform the sacrifice of our Lord given to us by Him, and yet they have committed and continue to commit grave sins without one hint of remorse, one commitment to end the debauchery they continue to do. Have they all no fear of God’s righteous judgement, or do they all believe that once ordained they are exempt from His judgement?

    As a catholic, this is what I see coming from the RCC. Firstly, there is the lies. Lies upon lies that go beyond belief. Today even, they still lie to us and the world about the abuses, about who committed them, and about those who enabled it. Then, there is the issue of what is so difficult to understand about the gravity of what has/is being done to children, innocents defiled, tortured, by the clergy that is not clear. What wall of ignorance is between the clergy and the laity that the abuse of children does not send even one priest to their aid to end the torture? This is the true presence of evil within the RCC. We see it plain as the morning sun rising. How can the church not see it. Then there is the matter of all the other areas of the world that will come forward with the same abuses, because this is far from over. Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, every place that we have not heard from will come forward. What we will get as a response from the RCC is the same old tired lies. To top it all off as if this was not sufficient enough, the pope and his acolytes attempt to chastise us for not believing the lies and demanding accountability as well as authenticity in faith and actions.

    Unless this church starts removing all abusers and their enablers like Wuerl this church is lost. Unless the clergy starts to act and live like followers of Christ, they will be met with Lord’s vengeance. Please try to convey to your fellow priests the dire situation they have created for themselves. They need to come clean, confess publicly their sins, perform reparations for the offenses they have committed against God and Heaven. Otherwise, may God have mercy on your souls.

  25. Thank you Msgr. for your perspective on this situation. Recall that Arbp. Vigano mentioned a similar situation in his 2nd letter regarding Cardinal Ouellet. Vigano
    said that he had worked with great harmony with Ouellet, and that Ouellet had maintained his dignity. Until Ouellet’s work was undermined and he gave up. Perhaps this great evil that has infiltrated the Church is beyond the strength of all but the most holy.

    Of course, Jesus with the Blessed Virgin Mary will be victorious. We must continue to pray and fast so that the Church may be purified, starting with US.

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