D.C. Archbishop Donald Wuerl Resigns Over Clerical Sex Abuse Crisis

Francis praised Wuerl for his “noble” behavior.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl's resignation was accepted by Pope Francis. The 77-year-old's  resignation made him one of the highest profile senior Catholic figures to step down after the global sexual abuse crisis sent a shockwave through the Vatican. He was bishop of Pittsburgh for many years, from 1988 to 2006. Wuerl was under tight scrutiny over his management of sexual abuse instances during that period. Cardinal Wuerl was the archbishop of Washington D.C. at the time of his resignation. He gets to keep the Cardinal title.

According to Pope Francis, Wuerl's request to resign reached him on September 21. It was being announced approximately 45 days after the Cardinal met the pontiff in Rome. Wuerl was in many ways forced to resign after multiple sexual assault victims asked him to do so. Calls for him to leave his post only grew larger after a grand jury produced a shocking and exhaustive report. The document described in detail the depraved crimes of about 300 Pennsylvania "predator priests." A few priests among those were under the then Cardinal's supervision.

Pope Francis responded by saying that he has accepted Wuerl's resignation at the insistence of the latter. He requested the American to continue as an administrator until the Vatican appoints a replacement of the same rank.

On October 12, Wuerl said the exit will permit the church to concentrate on the future and on healing. His absence will allow the local church to progress. He has repeatedly apologized for what he termed "errors in judgment." The toughest claims against him go back to the time when he was bishop of Pittsburgh. The 900-page-long report repeatedly mentions his name, accusing the Cardinal of transferring abusive priests from one parish to another, and not informing any other church leaders when the accused priests were transferred into their territories.

Pope Francis has praised Wuerl for exhibiting “nobility” even under adverse circumstances. The pontiff wrote that there exists a number of elements to sufficiently “justify” his actions. The pope continued in this vein saying it is easy to distinguish between covering up crimes and to commit a few mistakes. The pope then wrote that Wuerl's nobility has helped the latter to choose this specific line of defense. The pontiff concluded his note saying that he is proud of Cardinal Wuerl and thanked him for his service.

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