The Diocese of Pittsburgh has announced that Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School is to be renamed the North Catholic High School amid ongoing allegations that the Cardinal mishandled sexual abuse claims against priests.
In its statement on Wednesday, the diocese clarified that the decision was taken after the Cardinal himself requested that his name be removed.
The decision came after mounting public pressure for the removal of his name, which included a petition and culminated in vandals spray painting over the cardinal’s name on the school’s sign.
Amongst the Pennsylvania grand jury’s findings was an accusation that prominent Church leaders, including Cardinal Wuerl, had deliberately covered up reports of sexual abuse; prioritising the Church’s reputation above the suffering of the victims.
Cardinal Wuerl, a native of Pittsburgh, served as its Archbishop for 18 years, during which time the diocese accrued more accusations of sexual abuse than any of the other dioceses in the state.
According to one of its spokesmen, the name change could have gone ahead regardless of Wuerl’s intervention with Bishop David Zubik being described as “attentive to all the voices going on.” Bishop Zubik himself was also named in the grand jury report.
“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,” Wuerl wrote to the school’s board of directors, according to Wednesday’s statement. “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.”
Fr Nicholas Vaskow, a diocesan spokesman, said that conversations regarding the changing of the school’s name had already started at the beginning of the month after the neighbouring Diocese of Harrisburg took the decision to remove the names of every bishop since 1947 from every building and room named in their honour.
Harrisburg Bishop, Ron Gainer, announced the decision on August 1, saying “I acknowledge the sinfulness of those who have harmed these survivors, as well as the action and inaction of those in church leadership who failed to respond to you appropriately and justly.”
The rising tide of anger resulting from the grand jury report “intensified” calls for Cardinal Wuerl’s name to be removed, said Fr Vaskow. “In general, there is frustration, rage – they use different words. At the same time we have many notes of support. People are trusting in God. They are hopeful the bishop and the church can lead us through this,” he added.