The archbishop of Washington DC Donald Wuerl has stepped down over the handling of sex abuse cases but received praise from the Pope.
The archbishop of Washington DC Donald Wuerl has stepped down over the handling of sex abuse cases but received praise from the Pope.

Pope Francis accepts cardinal’s resignation

POPE Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as archbishop of Washington amid unfolding sex-abuse scandals.

Cardinal Wuerl, 77, who has been blamed for not doing enough to deal with paedophile priests, becomes one of the highest-ranking Catholic leaders to step aside over global accusations that the church harboured sex abusers.

Wuerl, who is a loyal ally of Pope Francis, offered to resign on September 21 after facing strong criticism over a report detailing mass sexual abuse cases when he was a bishop in Pennsylvania, AP reported.

But on Friday, Francis finally accepted Wuerl's resignation, however made it clear he did so reluctantly.

In a glowing letter of support Francis praised Wuerl's "nobility" and said the cardinal would stay on until his successor is appointed - instead of making an example of Wuerl, Francis held him up as a model for the future unity of the Roman Catholic Church.

"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," the Pope wrote.

The archbishop of Washington DC Donald Wuerl has stepped down over the handling of sex abuse cases but received praise from the Pope.
The archbishop of Washington DC Donald Wuerl has stepped down over the handling of sex abuse cases but received praise from the Pope.

"However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defence. Of this, I am proud and thank you."

Wuerl took to Twitter overnight to thank the Pope for his "beautiful letter", saying: "Earlier today, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, accepted my resignation as Archbishop of Washington that I first offered almost three years ago. Read his beautiful letter and my statement here."

In his statement (published yesterday) he explained that he was "deeply touched" by the Pope's letter and that his replacement would "allow all of the faithful of this Church" to "begin to focus on healing and the future".

He also apologised for "any past errors in judgment" and "begged for forgiveness on behalf of Church leadership from the victims who were again wounded when they saw these priests and bishops both moved and promoted.

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

Many took to his post to welcome his resignation, with one user saying: "Donny, Shame on you for your lack of concern and compassion for those who have been victimized under your watch. Your lack of leadership has hurt many people and you are as much to blame as the abusers themselves."

While another tweeted, "Best news of the week".

The Pope's handling of the situation has too copped major backlash from campaigners who said it showed the Catholic Church cared more for its leaders than abuse victims, the ABC reported.

According to Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, victims advocacy groups were outraged.

"The pope's letter to Cardinal Wuerl sends a clear message that for Pope Francis, Cardinal Wuerl is more important than the children he put in harm's way," he said.

"Until Pope Francis reverses this emphasis on coddling the hierarchy at the expense of children, the Catholic Church will never emerge from this crisis," he said in a statement.

Cover-up claims

Cardinal Wuerl has come under fire since the release in August of a US Grand Jury report on sexual abuse which found more than 300 predator priests and identified over 1,000 victims of child sex abuse covered up for decades by the Catholic Church in the state of Pennsylvania, AP reported.

The report - thought to be the most comprehensive to date into abuse in the US church - covered six dioceses in Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, where Cardinal Wuerl served as archbishop from 1998-2006.

The report mentioned Cardinal Wuerl's name more than 200 times, but has defended his overall record in Pittsburgh.

AP reported that despite facing numerous calls for his resignation, including from his own clergy, Wuerl said at the time the report confirmed he had acted with "diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse".


Puzzling teaching new skills

Puzzling teaching new skills

Plenty to learn from a bit of puzzling

GALLERY: Green thumbs grow at fest

GALLERY: Green thumbs grow at fest

Did we spot you at Gardenfest?

Glamour at the track

Glamour at the track

Classic and contemporary fashions to be judged.

Local Partners