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Pope accepts resignation of cardinal despite calling him a ‘scapegoat’ in sex abuse scandal

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis permitted the resignation Friday of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl after he become entangled in two primary sexual abuse and coverup scandals and misplaced the give a boost to of many in his flock.

However in a letter launched via Wuerl’s place of work, Francis praised his longtime best friend and steered Wuerl had unfairly turn into a scapegoat, having made some “errors” in dealing with intercourse abuse circumstances, however now not having coated them up.

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With the resignation, Wuerl turns into probably the most distinguished head to roll within the scandal roiling the Catholic Church after his predecessor as Washington archbishop, Theodore McCarrick, was once pressured to renounce as cardinal over allegations he sexually abused no less than two minors and grownup seminarians.

A Vatican commentary Friday stated Francis had permitted Wuerl’s resignation, however named no alternative; in his letter, the pope requested him to stick on in a short lived capability till a brand new archbishop is located.

The verdict got here after months by which Wuerl, who turns 78 in November, to begin with downplayed the scandal, insisted on his personal just right report, however then gradually got here to the realization that he may not lead the archdiocese.

“The Holy Father’s resolution to supply new management to the Archdiocese can permit the entire trustworthy, clergy, spiritual and lay, to concentrate on therapeutic and the long run,” Wuerl stated in a commentary Friday. “As soon as once more for any previous mistakes in judgment I say sorry and ask for pardon.”

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pope accepts resignation of cardinal despite calling him a scapegoat in sex abuse scandal - Pope accepts resignation of cardinal despite calling him a ‘scapegoat’ in sex abuse scandal

In his letter accepting the resignation, Francis stated he known that during asking to retire, Wuerl had put the pursuits and cohesion of his flock forward of his personal ambitions, as all shepherds should do.

“You’ve got enough parts to justify your movements and distinguish between what it method to hide up crimes or to not take care of issues, and to devote some errors,” Francis wrote. “Alternatively, your the Aristocracy has led you now not to make a choice this manner of defence. Of this I’m proud and thanks.”

Wuerl had submitted his resignation to Francis just about 3 years in the past, when he became 75, the standard retirement age for bishops. However Francis stored him on, as popes have a tendency to do with able-bodied bishops who percentage their pastoral priorities.

However a grand jury document issued in August on rampant intercourse abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses accused Wuerl of serving to to offer protection to some child-molesting monks whilst he was once bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006. Concurrently, Wuerl confronted popular skepticism over his insistence that he knew not anything about years of alleged sexual misconduct via McCarrick.

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Wuerl has now not been charged with any wrongdoing however was once named a lot of instances within the grand jury document, which main points circumstances by which he allowed monks accused of misconduct to be reassigned or reinstated.

In a single case cited within the document, Wuerl – performing on a health care provider’s advice – enabled priest William O’Malley to go back to lively ministry as a canonical guide in 1998 in spite of allegations of abuse lodged towards him up to now and his personal admission that he was once sexually all for teenagers. Years later, in keeping with the document, six extra other folks alleged that they had been sexually assaulted via O’Malley, in some circumstances after he were reinstated.

In some other case, Wuerl returned a clergyman to lively ministry in 1995 in spite of having won a couple of court cases that the priest, George Zirwas, had molested boys within the past due 1980s.

Wuerl apologized for the wear and tear inflicted at the sufferers but additionally defended his efforts to fight clergy intercourse abuse.

His defenders have cited a case that surfaced in 1988, when a 19-year-old former seminarian, Tim Bendig, filed a lawsuit accusing a clergyman, Anthony Cipolla, of molesting him. Wuerl to begin with wondered Bendig’s account however later permitted it and moved to oust Cipolla from the priesthood. The Vatican’s absolute best courtroom ordered Wuerl to revive Cipolla to priestly ministry, however Wuerl resisted and, after two years of criminal procedures, prevailed in combating Cipolla’s go back.

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“No bishop or cardinal within the country has had a extra constant and brave report than Donald Wuerl in addressing priestly sexual abuse,” contends Invoice Donahue, president of the Catholic League.

Wuerl’s archdiocese issued a chain of identical plaudits on Friday, coinciding with the Vatican announcement. They integrated a letter from the archdiocesan chancellor Kim Vitti Fiorentino, who lamented that Wuerl’s “pioneering management within the enhancement, implementation and enforcement of traditionally leading edge youngster coverage insurance policies was once overshadowed via the (Pennsylvania grand jury) document’s flaws and its interpretation via the media.”

A joint commentary via Washington auxiliary bishops additionally praised Wuerl for his provider and pastoral care and stated his resolution to step down was once a “transparent manifestation of his love and worry for the folks of the archdiocese.”

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest who writes for Faith Information Carrier, described Wuerl as an ideological reasonable.

“He was once utterly passionate about John Paul II, after which Pope Benedict, and now he’s utterly passionate about Pope Francis,” Reese stated. “There aren’t many of us within the church who’re utterly passionate about all 3 of them.”

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A large number of conservative Catholic activists and commentators, even though, thought to be him too tolerant of the LGBT neighborhood and too liberal on any other problems. They resented his pivotal function a decade in the past in resisting a push via a few of his fellow bishops to disclaim Communion to Catholic politicians who give a boost to the correct to abortion.

Survivor recommend David Clohessy of the gang SNAP stated Wuerl’s “long-overdue” resignation would possibly give solace to sufferers. However he stated it could most likely do little to discourage others within the hierarchy from protecting up for abusers.

“But when archaic, predatory-friendly rules had been reformed and if extra prosecutors confirmed actual braveness, those complicit clerics would possibly face prison fees, and that would possibly make an actual distinction,” he stated in a commentary.

Wuerl was once born in Pittsburgh, attended Catholic College in Washington and won a doctorate in theology from the College of Saint Thomas in Rome. He joined the priesthood in 1966, was once ordained a bishop via Pope John Paul II in 1986, and served in short as auxiliary bishop in Seattle ahead of going to Pittsburgh.

Crary reported from New York.

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