U.S. arch­bishop re­signs with pa­pal praise amid scan­dal

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - NEWS - PHILIP PULLELLA

The arch­bishop of Wash­ing­ton stepped down over the han­dling of sex-abuse cases but re­ceived ful­some praise from the Pope, draw­ing crit­i­cism from cam­paign­ers who said it showed the Catholic Church cared more for its lead­ers than abuse vic­tims.

Car­di­nal Don­ald Wuerl, a loyal ally of Pope Fran­cis, was crit­i­cized in a U.S. grand jury re­port in Au­gust for fail­ing to halt abuse in his pre­vi­ous role as arch­bishop of Pitts­burgh.

He be­comes one of the high­est-rank­ing Catholic lead­ers to step aside over global ac­cu­sa­tions that the church har­boured sex abusers. His res­ig­na­tion also fur­ther ex­poses a rift be­tween Fran­cis and mem­bers of the church’s con­ser­va­tive wing, some of whom say the Pope him- self should quit over the sex­abuse cri­sis.

In a glow­ing let­ter of sup­port, Fran­cis made clear that he ac­cepted Car­di­nal Wuerl’s res­ig­na­tion re­luc­tantly, at Car­di­nal Wuerl’s in­sis­tence, and be­lieved he was not guilty of try­ing to con­ceal abuse. “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. How­ever, your no­bil­ity has led you not to choose this way of de­fence. Of this, I am proud and thank you,” the Pope wrote.

Vic­tims’ ad­vo­cacy groups were out­raged.

“The Pope’s let­ter to Car­di­nal Wuerl sends a clear mes­sage that for Pope Fran­cis, Car­di­nal Wuerl is more im­por­tant than the chil­dren he put in harm’s way,” said Ter­ence McKier­nan, pres­i­dent of Bish­opAc­count­abil­ity.org.

“Un­til Pope Fran­cis re­verses this em­pha­sis on cod­dling the hi­er­ar­chy at the ex­pense of chil­dren, the Catholic Church will never emerge from this cri­sis,” he said in a state­ment.

Car­di­nal Wuerl has come un­der fire since the re­lease in Au­gust of a U.S. Grand Jury re­port on sex­ual abuse which found ev­i­dence that at least 1,000 peo­ple, mostly chil­dren, had been sex­u­ally abused by some 300 cler­gy­men over the course of 70 years.

The re­port cov­ered six dio­cese in Penn­syl­va­nia, in­clud­ing Pitts­burgh, where Car­di­nal Wuerl served as arch­bishop from 19982006. The re­port men­tioned Car­di­nal Wuerl’s name more than 200 times. Car­di­nal Wuerl has de­fended his record in Pitts­burgh.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

Car­di­nal Don­ald Wuerl, the arch­bishop of Wash­ing­ton, at­tends a pres­i­den­tial sign­ing cer­e­mony in the Rose Gar­den at the White House in May, 2017.

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