US archbishop criticised over sex abuse resigns with papal praise

Clay Curtis
October 13, 2018

The cardinal, who will turn 78 on the 2 November, had submitted his resignation to the Pope nearly three years ago in accordance with the Church law which requires bishops to offer their retirement at age 75.

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

"In accepting your resignation, I ask you to remain as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese until the appointment of your successor".

"However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defence".

The report is thought to be the most comprehensive to date into abuse in the U.S. church, but while prosecutors have filed charges against two priests, the vast majority of crimes happened too long ago to prosecute under current laws.

Francis said he received Wuerl's resignation request on September 21.

Cardinal Wuerl has been the subject of withering criticism since a Pennsylvania grand jury report in mid-August accused him in some cases of reassigning priests who had been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors during his time as bishop of his hometown of Pittsburgh (1988-2006). But cardinals are often allowed to serve until they are 80.

The Father Wuerl was appointed an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Seattle in 1986, following a Vatican investigation into Seattle's Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen.

"It permits this local Church to move forward".

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Wuerl apologized for the damage inflicted on the victims but also defended himself and his effort to combat clergy abuse.

Why did Cardinal Wuerl resign?

In response to the pope's letter, Wuerl released a statement, saying, "The Holy Father's decision to provide new leadership to the Archdiocese can allow all of the faithful clergy, religious and lay, to focus on healing and the future".

In the weeks since, Francis has alluded to ViganĂ²'s letter, to which he has said he will not respond, by speaking of the devil's role in trying to divide the church.

Patty Fortney-Julius, one of five sisters from central Pennsylvania who have accused their now-dead parish priest of sexually abusing them as children, also voiced frustrations.

In 1993, when John Paul II was pope, Wuerl traveled to Rome, where he successfully persuaded the Vatican to overturn the reinstatement of an abusive priest. Pope Benedict elevated then-Archbishop Wuerl to the College of Cardinals in November 2010, shortly after Wuerl's 70th birthday. He has served on a number of Vatican congregations, councils and commissions, as well as numerous national and worldwide organizations such as the Papal Foundation and various committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Catholic Church in the United States had already been shaken by the resignation of former archbishop of Washington Theodore McCarrick in July. "And that was to introduce the zero tolerance and... any priest against whom there was a credible, proven accusation, that appropriate action was taken", Wuerl had said.

Timoney, who worked for several years in the Archdiocese of Washington as the secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns, told OSV that Cardinal Wuerl was a natural "teaching bishop" who wrote several books, including the catechisms, "The Teaching of Christ" and "The Catholic Way".

Wuerl's defenders have cited a case that surfaced in 1988, when a 19-year-old former seminarian, Tim Bendig, filed a lawsuit accusing a priest, Anthony Cipolla, of molesting him.

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