Washington Archbishop Cardinal Wuerl to hold meeting of priests, withdraws from speaking engagement

- A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Washington confirms to FOX 5 that Washington Archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl will hold a meeting of priests on Monday.

The meeting will reportedly be to discuss both the recent Pennsylvania Grand Jury report and Cardinal McCarrick's abuse case.

This comes as Cardinal Wuerl withdrew himself from a scheduled appearance in Ireland, as he continues to face intense scrutiny regarding hundreds of alleged child sex abuse cases involving priests in Pennsylvania.

Cardinal Wuerl was supposed to deliver a keynote address at the Vatican-organized gathering at the World Meeting of Families, which is a Vatican-organized gathering in Dublin.

The Archdiocese of Washington confirmed that Cardinal Wuerl will not be attending the event, being held next week. It is unclear if it relates to that scathing report that’s left many Catholics in shock.

"It's disheartening. It was a tough call to go in today," said Jack Harrington, a congregant at St. Matthews Cathedral.

Some Catholics are giving a second thought before attending church Sunday morning, amid mounting criticism of Cardinal Wuerl.

Wuerl has now withdrawn his appearance after a disturbing report from a Pennsylvania grand jury report that detailed more than 300 priests sexually abused more than a thousand children.

Wuerl who was bishop of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from 1988 to 2006, has been heavily criticized for his handling of those child sex abuse cases in his leadership role.

On Wednesday, Cardinal Wuerl spoke exclusively to FOX5’s Tom Fitzgerald and defended his 12 years in Pittsburgh.

"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. 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," he said.

RELATED: Victims of child sex abuse by priests call for Cardinal Donald Wuerl to step down

Parishioners at St. Matthews Cathedral, where Wuerl presides, said they hope this newest report is a wake-up call to leadership in the Catholic church.
 
"When ‘Spotlight’ came out in 2001 and they talked about the abuses up in Boston, the church instituted some changes to protect innocent people, but I think it's obvious it hasn’t really taken effect. In my opinion, the hierarchy of the church hasn’t totally gotten serious about this and I think this recent thing with the grand jury in Pennsylvania and I think whats going to happen is we are going to hold the leaders of the church much more accountable," said Harrington.

The grand jury report named Wuerl over 200 times. All but two of the 1,000 cases are too old to be prosecuted. There are also three cases the report said Wuerl reassigned, reinstated or provided a monthly payment to accused pedophile priests. Rather than a systematic cover-up, Wuerl said the church’s action sprang from a desire to protect child victims, not as the grand jury says cover-up child sex abuse.

“I think I did everything that I possibly could,” he said. “One of the things that we did was that we put into place was a review board so there would be a way of looking into the allegations that would take it beyond just myself and my office looking at it.”

Wuerl submitted his mandatory resignation letter when he turned 75 back in November 2015. So far, Pope Francis has yet to accept it.

RELATED: Cardinal Wuerl addresses report on child sex abuse by priests, says he will not resign

The Archdiocese of Washington has not provided any comment or reason for the Cardinal canceling his trip.

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