Pope ac­cepts U.S. car­di­nal’s res­ig­na­tion

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - WORLD - By David Crary and Nicole Winfield David Crary and Nicole Winfield are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

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 coverup 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.

Wuerl, who turns 78 in Novem­ber, ini­tially played down the scan­dal and in­sisted on his own good record, but then pro­gres­sively came to the con­clu­sion that he could no longer lead the arch­dio­cese.

In a let­ter to the Wash­ing­ton faith­ful, which Wuerl asked to be read aloud at Mass this week­end, Wuerl di­rected him­self in par­tic­u­lar at sur­vivors of abuse.

“I am sorry and ask for heal­ing for all those who were so deeply wounded at the hands of the church’s min­is­ters,” he wrote. “I also beg for­give­ness on be­half of church lead­er­ship from the vic­tims who were again wounded when they saw these priests and bish­ops both moved and pro­moted.”

Wuerl has not been charged with any wrong­do­ing but was named nu­mer­ous times in the Penn­syl­va­nia re­port, which de­tails in­stances in which he al­lowed priests ac­cused of mis­con­duct to be re­as­signed or re­in­stated.

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