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Pope Francis accepted the resignation Friday of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl after he grew to become entangled in two main sexual abuse and cover-up scandals and misplaced the help of many in his flock.
However in a letter launched by Wuerl’s workplace, Francis praised his longtime ally and advised Wuerl had unfairly develop into a scapegoat, having made some “errors” in dealing with intercourse abuse circumstances, however not having coated them up.
With the resignation, Wuerl turns into probably the most distinguished head to roll within the scandal roiling the Catholic Church after his predecessor as Washington archbishop, Theodore McCarrick, was compelled to resign as cardinal over allegations he sexually abused at the very least two minors and grownup seminarians.
A Vatican assertion Friday mentioned Francis had accepted Wuerl’s resignation, however named no alternative; in his letter, the pope requested him to remain on in a brief capability till a brand new archbishop is discovered.
The choice got here after months through which Wuerl, who turns 78 in November, initially downplayed the scandal, insisted on his personal good report, however then progressively got here to the conclusion that he may now not lead the archdiocese.
“The Holy Father’s determination to offer new management to the Archdiocese can permit all the trustworthy, clergy, non secular and lay, to give attention to therapeutic and the longer term,” Wuerl mentioned in a press release Friday. “As soon as once more for any previous errors in judgment I apologize and ask for pardon.”
In his letter accepting the resignation, Francis mentioned he acknowledged that in asking to retire, Wuerl had put the pursuits and unity of his flock forward of his personal ambitions, as all shepherds should do.
“You will have adequate components to justify your actions and distinguish between what it means to cowl up crimes or to not take care of issues, and to commit some errors,” Francis wrote. “Nevertheless, your the Aristocracy has led you not to decide on this fashion of protection. Of this I’m proud and thanks.”
Wuerl had submitted his resignation to Francis almost three years in the past, when he turned 75, the traditional retirement age for bishops. However Francis stored him on, as popes are likely to do with able-bodied bishops who share their pastoral priorities.
However a grand jury report issued in August on rampant intercourse abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses accused Wuerl of serving to to guard some child-molesting monks whereas he was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006. Concurrently, Wuerl confronted widespread skepticism over his insistence that he knew nothing about years of alleged sexual misconduct by McCarrick.
Wuerl has not been charged with any wrongdoing however was named quite a few occasions within the grand jury report, which particulars cases through which he allowed monks accused of misconduct to be reassigned or reinstated.
In a single case cited within the report, Wuerl — performing on a physician’s suggestion — enabled priest William O’Malley to return to lively ministry as a canonical guide in 1998 regardless of allegations of abuse lodged in opposition to him up to now and his personal admission that he was sexually excited about adolescents. Years later, in keeping with the report, six extra folks alleged that they had been sexually assaulted by O’Malley, in some circumstances after he had been reinstated.
In one other case, Wuerl returned a priest to lively ministry in 1995 regardless of having obtained a number of complaints that the priest, George Zirwas, had molested boys within the late 1980s.
Wuerl apologized for the injury inflicted on the victims but in addition defended his efforts to fight clergy intercourse abuse.
His defenders have cited a case that surfaced in 1988, when a 19-year-old former seminarian, Tim Bendig, filed a lawsuit accusing a priest, Anthony Cipolla, of molesting him. Wuerl initially questioned Bendig’s account however later accepted it and moved to oust Cipolla from the priesthood. The Vatican’s highest court docket ordered Wuerl to revive Cipolla to priestly ministry, however Wuerl resisted and, after two years of authorized procedures, prevailed in stopping Cipolla’s return.
“No bishop or cardinal within the nation has had a extra constant and brave report than Donald Wuerl in addressing priestly sexual abuse,” contends Invoice Donahue, president of the Catholic League.
Wuerl’s archdiocese issued a collection of comparable plaudits on Friday, coinciding with the Vatican announcement. They included a letter from the archdiocesan chancellor Kim Vitti Fiorentino, who lamented that Wuerl’s “pioneering management within the enhancement, implementation and enforcement of traditionally modern youngster safety insurance policies was overshadowed by the (Pennsylvania grand jury) report’s flaws and its interpretation by the media.”
A joint assertion by Washington auxiliary bishops additionally praised Wuerl for his service and pastoral care and mentioned his determination to step down was a “clear manifestation of his love and concern for the folks of the archdiocese.”
The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest who writes for Faith Information Service, described Wuerl as an ideological average.
“He was completely passionate about John Paul II, after which Pope Benedict, and now he is completely passionate about Pope Francis,” Reese mentioned. “There are usually not many individuals within the church who’re completely passionate about all three of them.”
Quite a few conservative Catholic activists and commentators, although, thought of him too tolerant of the LGBT group and too liberal on another points. They resented his pivotal position a decade in the past in resisting a push by a few of his fellow bishops to disclaim Communion to Catholic politicians who help the best to abortion.
Survivor advocate David Clohessy of the group SNAP mentioned Wuerl’s “long-overdue” resignation may give solace to victims. However he mentioned it could probably do little to discourage others within the hierarchy from overlaying up for abusers.
“But when archaic, predatory-friendly legal guidelines had been reformed and if extra prosecutors confirmed actual braveness, these complicit clerics may face felony fees, and which may make an actual distinction,” he mentioned in a press release.
Wuerl was born in Pittsburgh, attended Catholic College in Washington and obtained a doctorate in theology from the College of Saint Thomas in Rome. He joined the priesthood in 1966, was ordained a bishop by Pope John Paul II in 1986, and served briefly as auxiliary bishop in Seattle earlier than going to Pittsburgh.
Crary reported from New York.