Published: Sat, October 13, 2018

U.S. cardinal resigns amid accusations of church sex abuse cover-up

U.S. cardinal resigns amid accusations of church sex abuse cover-up

In a highly unusual move, Francis asked Wuerl, who keeps the title of cardinal, to stay on as administrator of the Washington diocese until another archbishop could be appointed.

The 77-year-old embattled traveled to Rome in September to ask Pope Francis to accept the resignation letter that he submitted nearly three years ago upon reaching the customary retirement age of 75.

Wuerl, who turns 78 in November, 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.

Cardinal Wuerl is an admirer and ardent supporter of three very different popes - St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis - and sought to incorporate their insights into his local Church.

Wuerl's resignation comes in the wake of a barrage of allegations that he mishandled and covered up instances of criminal sexual abuse by priests while he was bishop of Pittsburgh, from 1988-2006.

"However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defence. Of this, I am proud and thank you", Francis wrote in the letter.

"Your renunciation is a sign of your availability and docility to the Spirit who continues to act in his Church", he added.

The confirmation of the Cardinal's resignation comes weeks after his request following the release of a 900-page report detailing 1,000's of cases of sex abuse and misconduct. "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".

Cardinal Wuerl asked the priests "for prayers for me, for forgiveness for my errors in judgment, for my inadequacies and also for your acceptance of my contrition for any suffering I have caused, as well as the grace to find, with you, ways of healing, ways of offering fruitful guidance in this darkness".


"My resignation is one way to express my great and abiding love for you, the people of the Church of Washington", he said.

As apostolic administrator, Cardinal Wuerl will continue to lead the day-to-day activities of the archdiocese, but will not be permitted to make any major changes.

However, Wuerl did indeed justify his actions as Bishop of Pittsburgh.

Francis ordered McCarrick to retire to a life of prayer and penitence after American Church officials said as part of a separate investigation that allegations that McCarrick had sexually abused a 16-year-old boy nearly 50 years ago were credible and substantiated.

"The grand jury report showed that Cardinal Wuerl oversaw and participated in the cover-up", the Pennsylvania attorney general, Josh Shapiro, said in an interview.

The report is thought to be the most comprehensive to date into abuse in the United States church, and it covered six diocese in Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh.

The auxiliary bishops of Washington also released a statement Friday, saying the cardinal's "pastoral and spiritual leadership in the archdiocese is well appreciated".

Cardinal Wuerl is a member of several Vatican departments, including the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Congregation for Bishops.

Wuerl's powers are limited to "caretaking" of the church until a new archbishop is named for the Archdiocese of Washington, the Rev. William Byrne, pastor of Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac, Maryland, told WTOP.

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