Washington DC

DC Deacon Calls on Cardinal Wuerl to Resign, Says He'll Refuse to Assist Him During Mass

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

A Catholic clergyman at a prominent church called for Cardinal Donald Wuerl to resign and said he could not "in good conscience" assist the D.C. archbishop as a deacon.

Deacon James Garcia said in a letter published online on Saturday that victims of sexual abuse by priests and church personnel deserve justice and accountability. He called on Wuerl to serve those victims.

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

Garcia said he will not attend to Wuerl personally, "whether as an assisting deacon or a master of ceremony."

Garcia, of Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in D.C., said he did not arrive at his decision easily. A lifelong Catholic who was ordained in 2013, Garcia said he was called to act in support of those who suffer.

"With respect to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, the first priority of particularly those who minister to the faithful is make sure that we are attentive to the needs, first and foremost, of the victims," he said.

A representative of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington declined to comment on Garcia's letter, which was published on a friend's website.

Wuerl is facing a storm of criticism and calls for his resignation after a Pennsylvania grand jury report said he allowed priests accused of sexually abusing children to be reassigned or reinstated when he was the bishop of Pittsburgh.

Wuerl has asked for prayers and forgiveness for what he calls his lapse of judgment in dealing with reports of abuse by priests.

The archbishop recently called for a "Season of Healing," inviting parishes and parishioners to observe six weeks of Friday prayers in recognition of the pain of the victims and the need for healing.

Garcia said he believed that was a start, but only a beginning.

"A critical part of genuine healing involves accountability, in particular accountability on the part of those who lead the church," he said.

Wuerl is scheduled to lead a Mass later this week. Garcia said he may attend, but not in his role as a deacon.

Earlier this month, a man stood in a Mass Wuerl was celebrating in D.C. and yelled "Shame on you" after Wuerl asked parishioners to keep Pope Francis in their prayers. 

During his post-Communion remarks at the Church of the Annunciation, Wuerl asked the parishioners to forgive his own "errors in judgment" and to pray for Pope Francis. 

"We need to hold close in our prayers and our loyalty our Holy Father Pope Francis," Wuerl said. "Increasingly it’s clear that he is the object of considerable animosity."

That's when Brian Garfield shouted, “Shame on you!” and then walked out of the church.

Wuerl continued, “At each mass, we pray for him by name as we do so with our voices, so may we do so also with our hearts. Yes, my brothers and sisters, shame. I wish I could redo everything over these 30 years as a bishop and each time get it always right. That’s not the case.”

Garfield, who is Catholic but not a parishioner of Annunciation, said he was upset at being lectured to by Wuerl and was surprised that more people didn't express the same outrage. He said his faith in God remains strong, but he can’t say the same thing about his faith in the church.

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