Nearly 80,000 people have signed a Change.org petition urging Pope Francis to remove Cardinal Donald Wuerl from his position as archbishop of Washington, DC.
The Change.org petition urged Pope Francis to remove Wuerl from his position for allegedly covering up the sexual abuse of minors and paying off clergy to lie about their stories while serving as bishop of Pittsburgh.
“Cardinal Wuerl did not act with moral courage to remove predator priests from public ministry. Decades later, his failure to lead has scandalized the Church,” the petition states.
“Given the result of a two-year grand jury investigation into widespread sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, and the revelation of Cardinal Wuerl’s systematic cover-up, we ask Pope Francis to remove him as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington,” the petition continues.
Winnie Obike, a Republican candidate for Maryland’s House of Delegates, started the petition—which reached over 79,000 signatures of its 150,000 signature goal as of Friday afternoon.
Obike, in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, said she was surprised at the overwhelming response to her petition.
“I didn’t expect anyone else to feel like I did,” Obike told Breitbart News.
The Republican candidate from Hyattsville, Maryland, said she launched the petition not as a candidate for office, but in her personal capacity as as a baptized Catholic in the D.C. area to show how “Wuerl’s leadership was compromised.”
“Catholics who are frustrated are responding to the scandal differently,” Obike said, adding that the petition is a way for people to get their message heard at the Vatican since “we don’t often challenge them in private or in public.”
She said she plans to present the petition to Callista Gingrich, the Ambassador to the Holy See, so she can deliver the message to the pope.
But she hopes if the Vatican takes away one message from this scandal, it is that the “power really lies with the people, not the clergy.”
Pressure against the pope to take action against Wuerl has intensified after the former Vatican ambassador to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, released an 11-page affidavit Saturday calling for Pope Francis to resign for allegedly lifting “canonical sanctions” on Wuerl’s predecessor, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, despite his record of sexually abusing priests, seminarians, and laypeople.
Some Catholics have also joined Viganò in calling for Pope Francis to resign for failing to handle the church’s sexual abuse scandal. So far, the pope has refused to comment on the growing scandal engulfing the Catholic church.
There had also been an increasing number of calls for Wuerl to resign his position two weeks after a Pennsylvania grand jury released a report accusing 300 priests of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children in Pennsylvania over a 70-year period.
The Pennsylvania grand jury report also accuses Wuerl of protecting sexual predator priests while he was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006.
One of the more disturbing allegations in the report details how Wuerl increased the stipend of a priest who abused minors and engaged in child pornography if the priest promised to remain silent about other sexual predator priests.
But in his affidavit report, Viganò’s revealed that he informed Wuerl that Pope Benedict imposed sanctions on McCarrick for his decades of sexual abuse of seminarians, priests, and laypeople. Shortly after this alleged discussion, Wuerl cancelled an event McCarrick was scheduled to host for young men contemplating a vocation to the priesthood.