Arch­bishop of Wash­ing­ton re­signs af­ter sex scan­dals


VAT­I­CAN CITY — Pope Fran­cis ac­cepted the res­ig­na­tion Fri­day of the arch­bishop of Wash­ing­ton, Car­di­nal Don­ald Wuerl, af­ter he be­came en­tan­gled in two ma­jor sex­ual abuse and cover-up scan­dals and lost the sup­port of many in his flock.

But in a let­ter re­leased by Wuerl’s of­fice, Fran­cis 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 among rank-and-file Catholics over the abuse scan­dal.

The pope’s ap­par­ent re­luc­tance to re­move Wuerl was ev­i­dence of the fraught per­son­nel de­ci­sions he has been forced to make as he grap­ples with the bur­geon­ing global scan­dal that has im­pli­cated some of his clos­est ad­vis­ers and al­lies, in­clud­ing top church­men in the U.S., Bel­gium, Hon­duras, Chile and Aus­tralia.

With the res­ig­na­tion, Wuerl be­comes the most prom­i­nent head to roll 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 as Wash­ing­ton arch­bishop, but named no re­place­ment.

Wuerl, who turns 78 in Novem­ber, ini­tially played down the scan­dal, 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.

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