February 19, 2019

United States cardinal resigns amid accusations of church sex abuse cover-up

13 October 2018, 09:29 | Devin Moran

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With the resignation, Wuerl becomes the most prominent head to roll in the scandal roiling the Catholic Church 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.

Wuerl, 77, who was bishop of Pittsburgh between 1988 and 2006, was blamed for not doing enough to deal with paedophile priests, and instead covering up the scandal in the state of Pennsylvania.

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as Archbishop of Washington, but asked him to continue as Apostolic Administrator until a successor is appointed.

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.

"Once again for any past errors in judgment I apologize and ask for pardon", he said.

"The pope's letter to Cardinal Wuerl sends a clear message that for Pope Francis, Cardinal Wuerl is more important than the children he put in harm's way", said Terence McKiernan, president of

When Pope Francis says Wuerl can "justify" these moral crimes, which he then writes off as mere "mistakes", he's not aiding Wuerl to make the acts of contrition that are necessary for Wuerl to confess and be absolved from these sins of his. The pope also praised Cardinal Wuerl's "nobility" in choosing to step down rather than defend his record under fire. "Of this, I am proud and thank you", the pope wrote.

Catholics worldwide have been asked to pray the Rosary every day during the "Marian month of October", in order "to protect the church from the devil, who is always looking to divide us from God and from one another". The report is thought to be the most comprehensive to date into abuse in the US church, but while prosecutors have filed charges against two priests, the vast majority of crimes happened too long ago to prosecute under current laws.

Other Catholic Church leaders have stressed the importance of transparency and investigating accusations against sexual abuse in the church.

The cardinal, who will turn 78 on the 2 November, had submitted his resignation to the Pope nearly three years ago in accordance with the Church law which requires bishops to offer their retirement at age 75.

Pope Francis is saying that Cdl. By seemingly downplaying the gravity of these sins and Wuerl's moral culpability for them, he is thereby participating in these sins. He also sought an extension to the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases in canon law.

In another case, Wuerl returned a priest to active ministry in 1995 despite having received multiple complaints that the priest, George Zirwas, had molested boys in the late 1980s.

For the last five years, Wuerl has also been the single most important voice within the United States hierarchy defending Pope Francis, at a time when some other American bishops and Catholic leaders have struck discordant notes. Wuerl presided over 32 accused priests during his time at the Pittsburgh diocese.

Wuerl's archdiocese issued a series of similar plaudits on Friday, coinciding with the Vatican announcement.

That could mean Wuerl's role as a "chief conduit" between the U.S. Church and Francis will stay in place, and his influence with the pope is unlikely to be diminished - if anything, since his retirement may afford him more time in Rome, it might even grow. "There are not many people in the church who are totally enthusiastic about all three of them".

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