Pope accepts resignation of Cardinal Donal Wuerl

Pope accepts embattled DC cardinal's resignation

As no replacement has yet been named, Wuerl will remain in his post in a temporary capacity until a new archbishop is found.

Wuerl's simultaneous resignation and rehabilitation by the pope is likely to enrage conservative Catholics who have been using the sexual abuse scandal to try to bring down prelates close to Francis. Simultaneously, Wuerl faced widespread skepticism over his insistence that he knew nothing about years of alleged sexual misconduct by McCarrick.

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.

In a September 11 letter to archdiocesan priests written after a private meeting with them, Cardinal Wuerl said that he would soon meet with the Pope to discuss his future, but did not immediately state that he would ask the Holy Father to allow him to resign.

"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", he said.

He added: "However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. Of this, I am proud and thank you", Pope Francis says in the letter.

FILE PHOTO: Cardinal Donald William Wuerl from US waves as he arrives for a meeting at the Synod Hall in the Vatican March 7, 2013. Archbishop McCarrick faces credible allegations of sexual abuse, including two that involved minors; Pope Francis ordered him to maintain "a life of prayer and penance" while awaiting a trial or other canonical process on the charges.

Cardinal Wuerl had offered to resign when he reached 75 in 2015, but the Pope did not take up the resignation.

"One would expect, then, a carefully-worded and diplomatic send-off from the Pope on such an occasion, but Pope Francis' letter goes far beyond this".

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Before the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released in mid-August, the book on Donald Wuerl would have been that he was among the most influential churchmen in American Catholicism over the last fifty years, and arguably the single most important of the last 20.

The erosion of Wuerl's standing was compounded by his association with his predecessor as archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick. Among the accusations against him is that he reassigned and reinstated some of them. He had been accused of sexually abusing several people, including children.

On Labor Day, Wuerl met with the priests in his archdiocese.

He also apologized for "any past errors in judgement". "Did you ever move priests quietly?"

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. Wuerl was in Washington on Friday morning.

Wuerl denied the grand jury allegations that he protected abusive priests.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest who writes for Religion News Service, described Wuerl as an ideological moderate.

"As a catechist, I think he really appreciated the precision of Pope Benedict's language, and as a shepherd, he really appreciated the emphasis on the personal encounter of Pope Francis", said Susan Timoney, an associate professor of pastoral studies at the Catholic University of America. They argue he should resign because he was part of an episcopal establishment that failed to protect the Church's most vulnerable members. They resented his pivotal role a decade ago in resisting a push by some of his fellow bishops to deny Communion to Catholic politicians who support the right to abortion. But he said it would likely do little to stop other clergyfrom covering up for abusers.

Wuerl was born in Pittsburgh, attended Catholic University and received a doctorate in theology from the University of Saint Thomas in Rome.

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