Photo of Cardinal Donald Wuerl speaking to a Washington D.C. police officer in May 2017 used by permission via Elvert Barnes / Flickr.

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh announced today that Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s name will be removed from North Catholic High School in Cranberry Township.

According to a statement released by the Diocese, Cardinal Wuerl requested that his name be removed in a letter they received on August 16. The board of directors at both the high school and the Catholic High Schools of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Inc., officially accepted his request in a meeting on August 17.

Wuerl, who served as Bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006, has been at the center of a storm of outrage following the release of a grand jury report detailing decades of sexual abuse and cover-ups in Catholic churches across Pennsylvania.

“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,” the announcement said Cardinal Wuerl wrote in his letter.

As the report details, then-Bishop Wuerl played a key role in arranging confidential financial settlements for victims and their families and continuously re-assigned predator priests into new, unsuspecting parishes despite being aware of their crimes.  

A petition calling for the removal of Wuerl’s name has already garnered 7,500 signatures as of August 22. Over the weekend, vandals spray-painted over the Cardinal’s name on a sign in front of the school’s campus.

Going forward, the school will be known simply as North Catholic High School. An additional petition calling for Wuerl to resign from his post in Washington is up to 5,000 signatures.  

In the last several years, Wuerl has styled himself in public as a champion of victims’ rights. He was promoted to Cardinal of Washington, D.C. in 2006 following the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was forced out after being accused of sexually abusing altar boys and seminary students. As Cardinal of D.C., Wuerl is in charge of more than 800 priests across 139 parishes. He is considered to be a close ally of Pope Francis.

The statement announcing the change made no mention of the scandal. It quotes Bishop David Zubik, who was accused of many similar crimes in the report, as saying he and the boards “acknowledged the contributions that Cardinal Wuerl has made to Catholic education in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.”

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.