Pope ac­cepts car­di­nal’s res­ig­na­tion amid sex scan­dals

Lethbridge Herald - - HEADLINE NEWS WEATHER -

Pope Fran­cis ac­cepted the res­ig­na­tion Fri­day of Wash­ing­ton Car­di­nal Don­ald Wuerl af­ter he be­came en­tan­gled in two ma­jor sex­ual abuse and coverup scan­dals and lost the sup­port of many in his flock.

But in a let­ter re­leased by Wuerl’s of­fice, Fran­cis asked him to stay on tem­po­rar­ily and sug­gested Wuerl had un­fairly be­come a scape­goat, hav­ing made some “mis­takes” in han­dling sex abuse cases, but not hav­ing cov­ered them up.

With the res­ig­na­tion, Wuerl be­comes the most prom­i­nent head to roll in the scan­dal roil­ing the Catholic Church af­ter his pre­de­ces­sor as Wash­ing­ton arch­bishop, Theodore McCar­rick, was forced to re­sign as car­di­nal over al­le­ga­tions he sex­u­ally abused at least two mi­nors and adult sem­i­nar­i­ans.

A grand jury re­port is­sued in Au­gust on ram­pant sex abuse in six Penn­syl­va­nia dio­ce­ses ac­cused Wuerl of help­ing to pro­tect some child-mo­lest­ing priests while he was bishop of Pitts­burgh from 1988 to 2006.

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, Wuerl faced wide­spread skep­ti­cism over his in­sis­tence that he knew noth­ing about years of al­leged sex­ual mis­con­duct by McCar­rick.

A Vat­i­can state­ment Fri­day said Fran­cis had ac­cepted Wuerl’s res­ig­na­tion, but named no re­place­ment; in his let­ter, the pope asked him to stay on in a tem­po­rary ca­pac­ity un­til a new arch­bishop is found and im­plied he was ac­cept­ing the res­ig­na­tion re­luc­tantly.

Wuerl, who turns 78 in Novem­ber, ini­tially down­played the scan­dal, in­sisted on his own good record, but then pro­gres­sively came to the con­clu­sion that he could no longer lead the arch­dio­cese.

“The Holy Fa­ther’s de­ci­sion to pro­vide new lead­er­ship to the arch­dio­cese can al­low all of the faith­ful, clergy, re­li­gious and lay, to fo­cus on heal­ing and the fu­ture,” Wuerl said in a state­ment Fri­day. “Once again for any past er­rors in judg­ment I apol­o­gize and ask for par­don.”

In his let­ter ac­cept­ing the res­ig­na­tion, Fran­cis said he rec­og­nized that, in ask­ing to re­tire, Wuerl had put the in­ter­ests and unity of his flock ahead of his own am­bi­tions.

“You have suf­fi­cient el­e­ments to jus­tify your ac­tions and dis­tin­guish be­tween what it means to cover up crimes or not to deal with prob­lems, and to com­mit some mis­takes,” Fran­cis wrote. “How­ever, your no­bil­ity has led you not to choose this way of de­fence. Of this I am proud and thank you.”

Fran­cis’ praise alarmed sur­vivors’ ad­vo­cates, who said it was ev­i­dence of the cler­i­cal cul­ture Fran­cis him­self de­nounces in which the church hi­er­ar­chy pro­tects its own.

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