Pope ac­cepts res­ig­na­tion of car­di­nal

Prelate ac­cused of cover­ing up sex­ual abuse

San Antonio Express-News - - METRO -

VAT­I­CAN CITY — Pope Fran­cis on Fri­day ac­cepted the res­ig­na­tion of Car­di­nal Don­ald Wuerl, the arch­bishop of Wash­ing­ton, a mo­ment many vic­tims of cler­i­cal abuse had hoped would demon­strate his com­mit­ment to hold­ing bish­ops ac­count­able for mis­man­ag­ing cases of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

But in­stead of mak­ing an ex­am­ple of Wuerl, who was named in a re­cent Penn­syl­va­nia grand jury re­port that ac­cused church lead­ers of cover­ing up abuse, Fran­cis held him up as a model for the fu­ture unity of the Ro­man Catholic Church. The pope cited Wuerl’s “no­bil­ity” in vol­un­teer­ing to re­sign and an­nounced that the 77year-old prelate would stay on as the arch­dio­cese’s care­taker un­til the ap­point­ment of a suc­ces­sor.

In an in­ter­view, Wuerl said that he would con­tinue to live in Wash­ing­ton and that he ex­pected to keep his po­si­tion in Vat­i­can of­fices that ex­ert great in­flu­ence, in­clud­ing one that ad­vises the pope on the ap­point­ment of bish­ops.

For some Catholics, Fri­day’s de­ci­sion was a deep dis­ap­point­ment on an is­sue that has shad­owed Fran­cis’s pa­pacy and threat­ened his legacy.

Af­ter he be­came pope in 2013, Fran­cis ap­pointed a com­mis­sion to ad­vise him on safe­guard­ing chil­dren from abuse, agreed to cre­ate a tri­bunal to try neg­li­gent bish­ops and spoke of “zero tol­er­ance” for of­fend­ing priests.

But crit­ics say Fran­cis has been more talk than ac­tion. By mak­ing it clear he thought Wuerl had served the church well, they said, Fran­cis sent yet an­other mixed mes­sage on a topic that has shaken faith in the church’s lead­er­ship around the world.

“It doesn’t sound like the pope has gone far enough at all,” said Mary Pat Fox, pres­i­dent of Voice of the Faith­ful, a na­tional group that ad­vo­cates for abuse vic­tims and church ac­count­abil­ity. “They’re re­mov­ing him from this sit­u­a­tion where peo­ple feel be­trayed, but he’s still got all the power pretty much that he ever had.”

Ed­ward McFadden, a spokesman for Wuerl, said that dur­ing the car­di­nal’s 12 years in Wash­ing­ton, “not a sin­gle pri­est of the Arch­dio­cese of Wash­ing­ton has faced a cred­i­ble claim, and there is not to­day a sin­gle pri­est in min­istry in Wash­ing­ton who has faced a cred­i­ble claim.” And dur­ing the car­di­nal’s 18 years as bishop of Pitts­burgh, he said, “there were no cover-ups of claims of abuse.”


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