A man stood and yelled “Shame on you” as Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl on Sunday addressed the sex abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church and asked parishioners to pray for Pope Francis as he deals with the problem.
A video of the incident inside Annunciation Catholic Church in Washington shows the man, identified by CNN as Brian Garfield, walking angrily toward the exit after he could be heard yelling at Wuerl during a short speech, in which the cardinal also asked parishioners to forgive his “errors in judgment” in handling sexual abuse claims while he was a bishop in Pittsburgh.
Garfield, who could not be reached for comment Monday, told CNN that he is a lifelong Catholic angry about the findings of a grand jury report in Pennsylvania released last month that documented abuse by 300 priests over the course of 70 years.
The report focused attention on Wuerl’s mixed record of dealing with abusive priests when he was bishop of Pittsburgh for 18 years before becoming cardinal of the Washington archdiocese in 2006.
Since those findings, Wuerl has faced escalating calls by Catholic survivor groups to resign, a push that grew more intense last week after a former Vatican ambassador to the United States – Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano – published a letter that accused the cardinal of knowing about alleged sexual misconduct committed by his predecessor in Pittsburgh, Theodore McCarrick.
Wuerl has denied knowing of anything about misconduct until McCarrick – who is accused of abusing two minors, young priests and seminarians – was suspended this summer. McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July following the allegations.
During his speech Sunday, held after mass, Wuerl sought to soothe anger among Catholics.
“We know there’s pain,” Wuerl told his church audience, many of whom sat listening in silence. “We know there’s confusion. I wish I could wipe it away but that’s not the way it works.”
The outburst by Garfield was triggered when Wuerl asked the crowd to pray for the pope, who has also come under attack over how abuse claims have been handled.
“It’s clear that he is the object of considerable animosity,” Wuerl said about the pope.
In a statement, the Washington archdiocese said Wuerl received “applause and expressions of support from the parishioners” as he concluded.
Later, more people approached Wuerl to express their support, the statement said.
Becky Ianni, a leader of the Northern Virginia chapter of the nonprofit Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said a push by survivor groups for Wuerl to resign has been gaining steam.
Several protests against Wuerl have been held in recent weeks, including one last week by a group of about 40 Catholic-school teachers outside the annual back-to-school Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Earlier this month, a high school in Pittsburgh removed the words “Cardinal Wuerl” from its name.
“We’re getting more phone calls,” said Ianni, who was abused as a child by a priest in Alexandria, Virginia. “I think it angered a lot of people that he was initially not being contrite.”
Terms used by Wuerl and other Catholic officials like “errors in judgment” or “inappropriate contact” anger people who want abusive priests held accountable, she said.
“All that kind of stuff minimizes the pain of survivors,” Ianni said.
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