Washington arch­bishop re­signs

Some feel Pope Fran­cis showed lack of con­dem­na­tion in let­ter

Tulsa World - - Front Page - By Clau­dia Lauer, Nicole Win­field and David Crary sleep­ing with

NOR­RIS­TOWN, Penn­syl­va­nia — Amid un­fold­ing sex­abuse 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 Fri­day 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 then-Bishop Wuerl ... over­saw and par­tic­i­pated in the sys­tem­atic cover-up 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 now can't pur­sue be­cause of the statute of lim­i­ta­tions.

Wuerl had of­fered his res­ig­na­tion as arch­bishop in late 2015, af­ter he turned 75. Pope Fran­cis ac­cepted the of­fer Fri­day, 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 de­fense. Of this I am proud and thank you.”

Wuerl, who turns 78 in Novem­ber, ini­tially played down the grand jury re­port and de­fended his own record, but even­tu­ally con­cluded he should 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. “Once again for any past er­rors in judg­ment I apol­o­gize and ask for par­don.”

With the res­ig­na­tion, Wuerl be­comes 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, even as he drew crit­i­cism in the grand jury re­port, also faced wide­spread skep­ti­cism 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 aleged McCar­rick cover-up that was writ­ten by the Vatican's for­mer am­bas­sador to the U.S., Arch­bishop Carlo Maria Vigano. He ac­cused a long line of U.S. and Vatican church­men of turn­ing a blind eye to McCar­rick's pen­chant for sem­i­nar­i­ans.

Fran­cis' 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.

She said Fran­cis should turn over all Vatican records on child sex crimes to sec­u­lar author­i­ties, and also de­mand that ev­ery cardinal and bishop post the names of all the ac­cused clergy on dioce­san web­sites.

Patty Fort­ney-Julius, one of five sis­ters from cen­tral Penn­syl­va­nia who have ac­cused their now-dead par­ish priest of sex­u­ally abus­ing them as chil­dren, also voiced frus­tra­tions.

“If the pope truly wants a pure faith and Catholics that can walk in on Sun­day morn­ing with their head held high ... then they will open up ev­ery secret archive in the world, and that's the bot­tom line,” she said at Josh Shapiro's news con­fer­ence. “You can't speak out of both sides of your mouth. Scrip­ture doesn't teach that, so the Catholic Church shouldn't teach that, es­pe­cially from the pope's pul­pit.”

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

DAVID GOLD­MAN/AP file

Cardinal Don­ald Wuerl, arch­bishop of Washington (left) talk­ing with Pope Fran­cis af­ter a Mass in the Basil­ica of the Na­tional Shrine of the Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion in Washington.

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