WASHINGTON - The victims of child sex abuse by priests are calling for Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, to step down.
The backlash continues in the wake of FOX 5's exclusive interview with the cardinal Wednesday evening after Wuerl defended his 12 years as Archbishop of Pittsburgh, even though a Pennsylvania grand jury and state attorney general say Wuerl and other Catholic church leaders conducted a "systematic cover-up" of 1,000 children who were sexually assaulted by 300 "predator priests.”
APP USERS: Click here to watch the full interview
The pressure is growing as voices of the victims of child sex abuse in the Catholic church grow louder, such as voices like Nanette Kirsh, who was abused at Mercyhurst Catholic Prep School in Erie, Pennsylvania in the early 1980s. Her friend, who was also abused, took his own life.
Paul Dorsch was sexually abused by a priest at Quigley Catholic School near Pittsburgh starting at the age of 13. When he met with then-bishop Wuerl in the late 1990s, he felt Wuerl was standoffish and brushed him off.
Kirsh and Dorsch now speak with one voice and state the cardinal needs to step down immediately.
"I think Wuerl needs to resign. I think he misses the boat, I think he misses the point, I think he's tired of dealing with it quite frankly is what I got out of that interview (on FOX 5), he may have done some things in the past and that's all well and good but we need to have some real reform and one of those reforms is he should resign," Dorsch told FOX 5.
"In any business where something like this has happened the leadership has had to step down because when it happens on your watch it's your responsibility,” Kirsh said. “The other thing is in the grand jury reports and the reports I've heard victims speak to I've not heard one say that they've felt heard, supported, or backed up by the leadership at that time."
The findings of the grand jury report were highly critical of Wuerl’s handling of four Pittsburgh priests involved in a pedophile ring.
One of those priests, George Zirwas, was placed on a leave of absence in 1995 and later murdered in Cuba. It was Wuerl himself who presided who over Zirwas' funeral mass and mourned him as “so young and so full of potential.”
Despite the grand jury report, in his interview with FOX 5, Wuerl defended his years Pittsburgh in dealing with child sexual abuse cases and said he'd not heard any calls for his resignation.
Instead, he insisted the abuse cases were in the past, and Catholics and the public, should instead focus on the "future."
"I would hope that Catholics of this archdiocese would realize with me that we are dealing with something that we are very much trying to be on top of today,” Wuerl told FOX 5. “I can't heal anything from the past. We can try, but where we need to be today is moving forward to see that these things don't happen."
Abuse survivors told FOX 5 that many victims of sexual abuse by priests are experiencing a wave of pain as these reports out of Pennsylvania come to light and are urging survivors to seek counseling.
Wuerl did submit a resignation letter to Pope Francis in November 2015 when he reached the age of 75 as the church requires.
Breaking its two-day silence, the Vatican finally issued a statement on Thursday, calling the findings of the grand jury report, "criminal and morally reprehensible."
However, there was no mention of Wuerl or any other church leaders cited in the grand jury report in that statement.