Anger as cardinal allowed to quit
Amid unfolding sex abuse scandals, Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as archbishop of Washington, but the pope’s gentle words and lack of condemnation angered those who feel top Catholic leaders continue to shirk responsibility for the global crisis.
Among those frustrated by the pope’s announcement yesterday was Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who oversaw a grand jury report issued in August on rampant sex abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses. The report accused Wuerl of helping to protect some child-molesting priests while he was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006.
‘‘It is unacceptable that thenBishop Wuerl . . . oversaw and participated in the systematic coverup that he did when leading the Pittsburgh Diocese, and that he is now able to retire seemingly with no consequences for his actions,’’ Shapiro said. ‘‘We can’t rely on the church to fix itself.’’
Shapiro spoke at a news conference after urging the state Senate to pass legislation allowing sex abuse victims to sue in old cases they currently cannot pursue because of the statute of limitations.
Wuerl had offered his resignation as archbishop in late 2015, after he turned 75. Francis accepted the offer yesterday, but asked Wuerl to stay on temporarily until a replacement is found, and suggested he had unfairly become a scapegoat and victim of the mounting outrage over the abuse scandal.
‘‘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 to Wuerl. ‘‘However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defence. Of this I am proud and thank you.’’
Wuerl initially played down the grand jury report and defended his record, but eventually concluded he should no longer lead the archdiocese.
He is the most prominent Catholic head to roll since his predecessor as Washington archbishop, Theodore McCarrick, was forced to resign as cardinal this year over allegations he sexually abused at least two minors and adult seminarians. Wuerl faced widespread scepticism over his insistence that he knew nothing about years of alleged sexual misconduct by McCarrick.
Wuerl was named prominently in the 11-page denunciation of an alleged McCarrick coverup that was written by the Vatican’s former ambassador to the US, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. He accused a long line of US and Vatican churchmen of turning a blind eye to McCarrick’s penchant for sleeping with seminarians.
Francis’s praise for Wuerl alarmed advocates for abuse survivors, who said it was evidence of the clerical culture Francis himself denounces in which the church hierarchy consistently protects its own. The pope ‘‘needs to fire and publicly admonish any bishop that has enabled perpetrators by concealing their crimes from law enforcement and the public’’, said Becky Ianni of SNAP, a network of abuse survivors.
Andrew Brunson and wife Norine arrive at Adnan Menderes Airport for a flight to Germany after his release following his trial in Izmir, Turkey. The evangelical Christian pastor was convicted of terror charges but released from house arrest and allowed to leave Turkey, in a move likely to ease tensions between Turkey and the United States.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl was accused of helping to protect child-molesting Catholic priests.