A reference to Cardinal Donald Wuerl will be removed from the name of a Pennsylvania Catholic high school following allegations that he protected priests who sexually abused children, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said Wednesday.
Wuerl asked for the school, which will simply be known as North Catholic High School, to change its name on Aug. 16.
“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 in a letter to school officials. “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.”
The boards of directors for the school and the Catholic High Schools of the Diocese of Pittsburgh approved the request the following day, the diocese said in a press release.
Some North Catholic alumni started an online petition calling for the removal of Wuerl’s name, which collected more than 7,000 signatures over the last week. The high school’s sign was vandalized with red spray paint on Monday to cover up its mention of the cardinal.
Wuerl, 77, first came under fire after the release of an 884-page Pennsylvania grand jury report that detailed decades of abuse by 301 priests against more than 1,000 victims. His name was mentioned more than 200 times.
The report alleged that Wuerl protected predatory priests by covering up crimes and allowing them to remain in the ministry when he was a bishop in Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006.
The cardinal has defended himself against the allegations, saying, “I think I did everything I possibly could.” Wuerl, who is currently serving as an archbishop in Washington, is considered one of the most influential Americans of the Roman Catholic Church. He was promoted to cardinal in 2010.
In wake of the backlash from the report, Wuerl also withdrew from his keynote address at the World Meeting of Families in Ireland and lost a book deal.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.