The cardinal faces continuing criticism over his handling of the abuse crisis
A Catholic high school named after Cardinal Donald Wuerl was vandalized Monday, following continued criticism of the cardinal’s handling of sex abuse allegations during his time as bishop of Pittsburgh.
Red spray paint covered the cardinal’s name on the sign for Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School on Monday morning.
Police said they received a call at 7 a.m. on August 20 about the Pittsburgh-area school’s entrance sign, which had been painted over on both sides, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Students at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School returned for the first day of classes to find someone had spray-painted over Wuerl’s name on a sign outside the school. https://t.co/P9E8plLeOv pic.twitter.com/MYAwhL810p
— KDKA (@KDKA) August 21, 2018
The vandalism took place amid a call for the school to change its name, removing Cardinal Wuerl from the title. A petition calling for a name change has received more than 7,000 signatures.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh has not decided if the school’s name will change, but North Catholic Principal Luke Crawford said an executive session will be held to consider it. Recommendations for a new name would be forwarded to a group overseeing the diocese’s Catholic schools and ultimately decided by Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh.
The vandalism followed an 884-page report released on August 14, concluding an 18-month investigation into clerical sex abuse within six dioceses of Pennsylvania. The report found that some 300 priests had allegedly abused more than 1000 victims in a span of seven decades.
The report raised serious questions about Wuerl’s handling of abuse cases during his tenure as Bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006. In one case, Wuerl authorized the transfer and continued ministry of a priest who had been accused of committing acts of sexual abuse decades earlier.
Wuerl, who now heads the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has denied having had knowledge of the allegations at the time he authorized the transfer, but questions remain unanswered regarding his management of that case and others.
The cardinal has also recently faced questions related to what he might have known about the alleged sexually coercive behavior of his predecessor as Archbishop of Washington, former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. In recent months, McCarrick has faced allegations that he serially sexually abused two adolescent boys, and spent decades committing acts of sexual assault and coercion toward seminarians and young priests. In 2005 and 2007, two New Jersey dioceses reached settlements with alleged victims of McCarrick.
Wuerl, who succeeded McCarrick as Archbishop of Washington in 2006, reports having had no knowledge of those settlements, or of any complaints about sexually abusive behavior on the part of McCarrick, who continued to live and minister in the Archdiocese of Washington subsequent to his retirement.