The cardinal said he would 'give anything to turn the clock around and have the Church do everything right'

Cardinal Donald Wuerl has asked for forgiveness for his “errors in judgment” amid claims that he mishandled allegations of sexual abuse while a bishop.

In a letter addressed to priests in the Washington diocese, Cardinal Wuerl wrote: “I ask you, as I did at the cathedral, for prayers for me, for forgiveness for my errors in judgment, for my inadequacies, and also for your acceptance of my contrition for any suffering I have caused”.

The Catholic Standard, an archdiocesan newspaper of Washington, published Cardinal Wuerl’s letter on Thursday.

“I ask you please to let your people – the men, women and children – we love and minister to and hold in our pastoral care know that I do recognise and share their pain,” the cardinal said.

“Let them know I wish I could wipe it away even though that is simply not possible. I would give anything, as would all of us, to turn the clock around and have the Church do everything right.”

Recent revelations about Cardinal Wuerl have prompted online petitions for his resignation and protests outside Washington churches. On 22 August, the Diocese of Pittsburgh announced that Cardinal Wuerl’s name would be removed from a Catholic high school.

Cardinal Wuerl was named in a Pennsylvania grand jury report which cited cases where the cardinal, then the Bishop of Pittsburgh, allowed abusive priests back into ministry.

Additionally, Archbishop Carlo Viganò, the emeritus apostolic nuncio to the US, claimed that Cardinal Wuerl had for years known about allegations of sexual misconduct committed by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, his predecessor in the Washington diocese.

The cardinal’s spokesperson told the Catholic News Agency: “Cardinal Wuerl did not receive documentation or information from the Holy See specific to Cardinal McCarrick’s behaviour or any of the prohibitions on his life and ministry suggested by Archbishop Viganò.”

Pope Francis is also facing criticism for his handling of the crisis. Cardinal Wuerl said in his statement: “Finally, we need to hold close in our prayers and loyalty our Holy Father, Pope Francis. Increasingly, it is clear that he is the object of concentrated attack. At each Mass we pray for him by name. As we do so with our voices may we do so as well with our hearts.”

Cardinal Wuerl confirmed that he would celebrate Mass on Sunday. “I hope to offer some thoughts on how we as a Church – all of us laity, religious and clergy – might begin with faith strengthened in prayer to discern that level of reform rooted in accountability and transparency that would permit the Church to enter a new era,” he wrote.