News out of Rome this morning indicates that Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s resignation, submitted two years ago as required at the age of 75, has finally been accepted by the pope.
Wuerl, the archbishop of the Washington, D.C. archdiocese and direct successor to disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, has been embroiled in controversy since the allegations against McCarrick broke earlier this summer. The scandals surrounding Wuerl deepened when it was alleged in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report that he mishandled cases of clerical abuse in Pittsburgh, including one involving a 16-year-old boy.
Six of the accused priests in Pittsburgh during Wuerl’s tenure as bishop there, according to a September story in the Washington Post, “were permitted to return to clerical roles after receiving psychiatric treatment at church-backed facilities only to be removed after the church’s sex abuse scandal erupted in Boston in 2002, records show. Three others were allowed to take leave or to remain on leave, staving off disciplinary proceedings and allowing them to present themselves as priests in good standing when they moved to Ohio, California and Florida.”
Wuerl released the following statement through the Archdiocese of Washington:
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has accepted the resignation I first offered on November 12, 2015, when I reached my 75th birthday. I am profoundly grateful for his devoted commitment to the wellbeing of the Archdiocese of Washington and also deeply touched by his gracious words of understanding.
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. It permits this local Church to move forward. 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.
The page that features the cardinal’s letter includes a timeline of “Cardinal Wuerl’s Milestones as Archbishop of Washington.” Among them: “Oversaw the production of an archdiocesan series of guides called ‘Keeping Kids Safe’ to educate parents on recognizing, reporting and protecting their children from abuse.”
Sources have reported that Wuerl asked Pope Francis to accept his resignation during Wuerl’s most recent visit to Rome. The pope published a letter this morning, an “unofficial courtesy translation” of which is featured at the Archdiocese of Washington’s website, explaining his decision:
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. However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. Of this, I am proud and thank you.
Pope Francis has designated Wuerl as the apostolic administrator of D.C., which means he will remain in charge of the archdiocese “until the appointment of [his] successor.” There is no word yet on who his replacement will be or whether he will face additional disciplinary action.
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