Archbishop of Washington DC Cardinal Donald Wuerl resigns amid cover-up scandal

Posted October 13, 2018

It seems remarkable to Shaw that Pope Francis has failed to use this opportunity to distance himself from the "nightmarish, interconnected abuse allegations and convictions" rocking the Catholic Church in the USA.

Why did Cardinal Wuerl resign?

The Holy Father said that Cardinal Wuerl has "sufficient elements "to justify" [his] actions and distinguish between what it means to cover up crimes or not to deal with problems, and to commit some mistakes".

"I strongly doubt that McCarrick concerned him to the degree you'd like to think, given he was an 82-year-old emeritus archbishop who had been out of a job for seven years", Ouellet wrote.

Wuerl said in a statement that he was "deeply touched" by the pope's letter and that his replacement would "allow all of the faithful, clergy, religious and lay, to focus on healing and the future".

Wuerl called the pope's letter a "very, very beautiful" recognition and noted that this decision will "permit this local church to move forward".

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Finally, Cardinal Wuerl "once again" apologized and asked for forgiveness for "any past errors in judgement".

"You can not end your priestly life in an open and scandalous rebellion that inflicts a painful wound" on the church and divides its people, he ended his letter.

After re-examining the archives, I can ascertain that there are no corresponding documents signed by either Pope, neither is there a note of an audience with my predecessor, Cardinal Giovanni-Battista Re, giving Archbishop Emeritus McCarrick an obligatory mandate of silence and to retire to a private life, carrying canonical penalties.

Pope Francis meets U.S. Catholic Church leaders Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose Horacio Gomez, Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, and Monsignor Brian Bransfield, General Secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, during a private audience at the Vatican, September 13, 2018.

Wuerl's archdiocese issued a series of similar plaudits on Friday, coinciding with the Vatican announcement. But Francis kept him on, as popes tend to do with able-bodied bishops who share their pastoral priorities.

The report said he had allowed accused priests to be reassigned or reinstated. And the cardinal will stay on as the "Apostolic Administrator" of Washington in the short term until a new archbishop is chosen.

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Meanwhile the Archbishop of Malta, Charles Scicluna told a press briefing in the Vatican, bishops are not just accountable to God but to their people.

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.

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

"Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has accepted the resignation first offered on November 12, 2015, when I reached my 75th birthday".

Kim Viti Fiorentino, the chancellor and general counsel of the Archdiocese of Washington, said in a statement October 12 that the archdiocese has "been profoundly blessed to have this great priest as our archbishop". But it wasn't until previous year that it was informed of an accusation that he had molested a minor - a far more grave canonical crime than merely sleeping with adult seminarians.

In his letter, Pope Francis said Cardinal Wuerl's choice to step down reflected the "heart of the shepherd" who seeks church unity over "sterile division sown by the father of lies", the devil, who "wants nothing more than that the sheep be dispersed". He joined the priesthood in 1966 and was ordained a bishop in 1986 by Pope John Paul II in 1986. He also wrote a best-selling adult catechism of the same name, and has since more than 20 other books. He served briefly as auxiliary bishop in Seattle before going to Pittsburgh. He held this position until he was appointed in May 2006 to head the Archdiocese of Washington.

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The ex-cardinal was reportedly sexually active with seminarians and was punished by Pope Benedict XVI. He has served on a number of Vatican congregations, councils and commissions, as well as numerous national and global organizations such as the Papal Foundation and various committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.