Washington archbishop resigns in wake of clergy sex abuse scandal
VATICAN CITY — U.S. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, accused of covering up sex abuse crimes by priests, has stepped down as archbishop of Washington, the Vatican said Friday.
The high-profile resignation was another blow for Pope Francis, who recently has been confronted with mounting clergy sex abuse scandals across the globe.
Francis accepted Wuerl’s request to go, a Vatican statement said. However, he also asked the cardinal to stay on in a caretaker role until a replacement is found.
“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 posted on the Washington Archdiocese’s website.
“Once again, for any past errors in judgment, I apologize and ask for pardon. My resignation is one way to express my great and abiding love for you the people of the Church of Washington,” he added.
Wuerl, 77, had been under growing pressure to resign since the publication in August of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on the abuses committed by 301 priests over a period of 70 years.
The cardinal, who was bishop of Pittsburgh from 19882006, was not accused of any crimes but was named as having been excessively lenient to some child-abusing priests.
Becky Ianni, treasurer of Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said the organization is thankful that Pope Francis accepted Wuerl’s resignation.
“We hope that this action will bring healing to victims of clergy sexual abuse and relief to Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington,” Ianni said in a statement emailed to dpa.
But she also said it was insulting to all victims that Francis called Wuerl a “shepherd” who made “some mistakes.”
“This is another knife in the heart of those who have already suffered at the hands of the Catholic church,” she said in the statement. “If the pope truly wants to protect children and help victims to heal, he needs to fire and publicly admonish any bishop that has enabled perpetrators by concealing their crimes from law enforcement and the public.”