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

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

However in a letter launched through Wuerl’s administrative center, Francis praised his longtime best friend and urged Wuerl had unfairly transform a scapegoat, having made some “errors” in dealing with intercourse abuse circumstances, however now not having lined them up.

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With the resignation, Wuerl turns into probably the most outstanding head to roll within the scandal roiling the Catholic Church after his predecessor as Washington archbishop, Theodore McCarrick, used to be compelled to surrender as cardinal over allegations he sexually abused a minimum of two minors and grownup seminarians.

A Vatican observation Friday stated Francis had authorized 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 through which Wuerl, who turns 78 in November, first of all downplayed the scandal, insisted on his personal excellent report, however then gradually got here to the belief that he may just not lead the archdiocese.

“The Holy Father’s resolution to offer new management to the Archdiocese can permit the entire devoted, clergy, non secular and lay, to concentrate on therapeutic and the long run,” Wuerl stated in a observation Friday. “As soon as once more for any previous mistakes in judgment I ask for forgiveness and ask for pardon.”

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

“You’ve got enough components to justify your movements and distinguish between what it manner to hide up crimes or to not care for issues, and to devote some errors,” Francis wrote. “Then again, your the Aristocracy has led you now not to select this fashion 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 grew to become 75, the traditional retirement age for bishops. However Francis stored him on, as popes generally tend to do with able-bodied bishops who proportion their pastoral priorities.

However a grand jury file 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 used to be 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 through McCarrick.

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Wuerl has now not been charged with any wrongdoing however used to be named a large number of instances within the grand jury file, which main points cases through which he allowed monks accused of misconduct to be reassigned or reinstated.

In a single case cited within the file, Wuerl – performing on a physician’s advice – enabled priest William O’Malley to go back to lively ministry as a canonical marketing consultant in 1998 regardless of allegations of abuse lodged towards him previously and his personal admission that he used to be sexually concerned about youth. Years later, in step with the file, six extra folks alleged that they have been sexually assaulted through O’Malley, in some circumstances after he were reinstated.

In every other case, Wuerl returned a clergyman to lively ministry in 1995 regardless of having won a couple of proceedings that the priest, George Zirwas, had molested boys within the overdue 1980s.

Wuerl apologized for the wear and tear inflicted at the sufferers but in addition defended his efforts to battle 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 first of all wondered Bendig’s account however later authorized it and moved to oust Cipolla from the priesthood. The Vatican’s absolute best court docket ordered Wuerl to revive Cipolla to priestly ministry, however Wuerl resisted and, after two years of criminal procedures, prevailed in fighting 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 used to be overshadowed through the (Pennsylvania grand jury) file’s flaws and its interpretation through the media.”

A joint observation through Washington auxiliary bishops additionally praised Wuerl for his carrier and pastoral care and stated his resolution to step down used to be a “transparent manifestation of his love and worry for the folk of the archdiocese.”

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

“He used to be completely captivated with John Paul II, after which Pope Benedict, and now he’s completely captivated with Pope Francis,” Reese stated. “There don’t seem to be many of us within the church who’re completely captivated with all 3 of them.”

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A large number of conservative Catholic activists and commentators, despite the fact that, regarded as him too tolerant of the LGBT group and too liberal on every other problems. They resented his pivotal position a decade in the past in resisting a push through a few of his fellow bishops to disclaim Communion to Catholic politicians who give a boost to the suitable to abortion.

Survivor suggest David Clohessy of the crowd SNAP stated Wuerl’s “long-overdue” resignation may give solace to sufferers. However he stated it could most probably do little to discourage others within the hierarchy from masking up for abusers.

“But when archaic, predatory-friendly regulations have been reformed and if extra prosecutors confirmed actual braveness, those complicit clerics may face legal fees, and that may make an actual distinction,” he stated in a observation.

Wuerl used to be 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, used to be ordained a bishop through Pope John Paul II in 1986, and served in brief as auxiliary bishop in Seattle prior to going to Pittsburgh.

Crary reported from New York.

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