WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- Nearly 80 million Americans still call themselves Catholic, but their numbers have been dwindling.
And among American Catholics, someare proud of Pope Benedict's decision to resign.... and othersare furious that he's failed to do more to deal with child sex abuse by priests.
The resignation was a shock to the Archbishop of Washington,Cardinal Donald Wuerl."It's very startling. Totally unprepared for it."
Cardinal Wuerl had just been with the Pope in October, and he says he saw no sign Benedict was struggling with his duties. "There was no doubt he was in full possession of his faculties."
Cardinal Wuerl will be part of the conclave that will select the next Pope... and he says he will be looking for continuity with the conservative teachings of Benedict and John Paul. "There is a basic doctrine that is the bedrock of Catholic faith."
But many American Catholics are pushing for a change. "The last thing we want is continuity," says David Lorenz of Bowie, who was abused by the priest and guidance councilor at his Catholic High School.Lorenz was sodomized at a sleepover when he was just 16.
Lorenz says Pope Benedict has offered comforting words, but that he's failed to punish bishops for hiding abusive priest and covering up the sexual abuse of children that is tearing the church apart. "ThisPope has done nothing.... This thing is going to haunt them for a thousand years until they stand up and confront it and come clean."
But some see Benedict's decision as a sign of his greatness. "This is a real example of his humility. We stand behind him and support him. We love him!" said Amanda Hamilton, as she stood on the steps of the Cathedral of St. Matthew before going inside for a noon mass on Monday.
Jean Belmonte said she supports continuity. "These are our leaders, and they're saying this is what Jesus taught us."
Cardinal Weurl did say he would at least consider picking a successor with the youth and energy to travel the globe to reach out to the world's nearly 1.2 billion Catholics. But he also says there is a great value in experience -- and that of course comes with age.