National News

Cardinal Wuerl Will Not Celebrate Mass for Life

The Archdiocese of Washington announced Wednesday that Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, will be the main celebrant of tomorrow’s Mass for Life, which will be held at a youth rally before the annual March for Life. Washington Auxiliary Bishops Mario Dorsonville and Roy Campbell will concelebrated the Mass with the apostolic nuncio.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl speaks during a 2017 lecture at Georgetown University’s Dahlgren Chapel. The cardinal spoke on the topic “Pope Francis: Fresh Perspectives on Synodality” as part of the university’s Dahlgren Chapel Sacred Lecture series. (Photo:Catholic News Service/Phil Humnicky, courtesy Georgetown University)

Originally, Cardinal Donald Wuerl was going to be the main celebrant. He was the archbishop of Washington until Pope Francis accepted his resignation last October. But the pope asked Cardinal Wuerl to remain as apostolic administrator to the archdiocese until his successor is selected. For years, the archbishop of Washington has been the main celebrant of the Mass for Life.

The announcement comes after a week of growing criticism of the cardinal for his response to the allegations of sexual abuse against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. A public petition requesting Cardinal Wuerl not to celebrate Mass collected more than 300 signatures in the days leading up to the announcement.

The Archdiocese of Washington has hosted a large youth rally and Mass before the March for Life for the last 25 years. The 2019 event will be held in the Capital One Arena, and 20,000 pilgrims from across the country are expected to attend. In addition to the Mass, there will be testimonies from pro-life leaders and musical performances.

The recent criticism was motivated by the revelation that, in an apparent contradiction with Cardinal Wuerl’s previous statements, he did know about allegations of sexual misconduct by now former Cardinal McCarrick,

In a Jan. 12 letter, the cardinal said that his previous denials of knowing about the allegations against Archbishop McCarrick referred exclusively to sexual abuse of minors, not adults.

But in a second letter to the priests of the diocese, published three days later, he said that he knew about an allegation against the former cardinal, but had forgotten about it.

In a Washington Post article the day before, Robert Ciolek, the former priest who had brought up the “inappropriate conduct” allegations against Archbishop McCarrick in the Diocese of Pittburgh, Pa., indicated that Cardinal Wuerl knew about his allegations since 2004.

According to the Washington Post, “Wuerl apologized to former priest Robert Ciolek in the evening and then sent a letter to the priests of the archdiocese, where Wuerl is the acting administrator.”

In his letter, Cardinal Wuerl said, “it is important for me to accept personal responsibility and apologize for this lapse of memory. There was never the intention to provide false information.”