Pope ripped for praising D.C. cardinal
Critics: Words hurt victims
Pope Francis’ gentle words, lack of condemnation and even praise as he accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Washington archbishop accused of protecting child-molesting priests, was slammed by critics yesterday as an affront to victims.
The pontiff asked Wuerl to stay on temporarily until a replacement is found and suggested he had unfairly become a scapegoat and victim himself of the mounting outrage over the priest sex 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 defense. Of this I am proud and thank you.”
That prompted an angry response from Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who said the pope should have ordered Wuerl to own up to his transgressions for the sake of those he hurt.
“Instead of portraying Cardinal Wuerl as a victim who made some mistakes, Pope Francis should be instructing Cardinal Wuerl to fully reveal Cardinal Wuerl’s role in the coverup while bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for about 18 years and in the scandal involving former Cardinal (Theodore) McCarrick so that victims can try to heal,” Garabedian said in a statement, referring to Wuerl’s predecessor, who resigned earlier this year after allegations McCarrick sexually abused minors and adult seminarians over the course of decades.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who oversaw a grand jury report that accused then-Bishop Wuerl of shielding child-molesting priests while he was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006, called it “unacceptable” that Wuerl “oversaw and participated in the systematic cover-up … and that he is now able to retire seemingly with no consequences for his actions.”
“We can’t rely on the church to fix itself,” Shapiro said.
Attorney Carmen Durso, who, like Garabedian, has represented numerous clergy sex abuse victims in the Boston Archdiocese, said by keeping Wuerl on, Francis is not only sending the wrong message to survivors but to bishops who are “trying to feel their way about how to deal with sex abuse.”
“It should be zero tolerance,” Durso said. “You don’t cover up for (abusive priests). You don’t move them elsewhere. If Wuerl did these things, the pope should make an example of him to show that if it can happen to a cardinal, it can happen to any priest.”
STAYING ON — FOR NOW: Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington was forced to resign amid allegations he covered up clergy sex abuse in the Pittsburgh Diocese, but will stay on until his replacement is named.