Pope OKs resignation of Cardinal Wuerl amid cover-up scandal

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Wuerl wrote to priests to defend himself on the eve of the scheduled August 14, 2018, release of a grand jury report investigating child sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania's Roman Catholic dioceses. In fact, at first Wuerl defended himself against some of the allegations in the August report that he reassigned priests who abused children to shield them from accountability, and many others noted that he had, while in Pittsburgh, pushed the Vatican to take a tougher stance on child sex abuse.

"I think about the damage that has occurred to the Church, so this is bigger than any specific case or reference in that grand jury report", said Patricia McGuire, the president of Trinity Washington University, a Catholic university in Washington D.C.On her blog and in a recent interview with OSV, McGuire said Cardinal Wuerl should resign because his credibility as an archbishop has been compromised. He said he acted with "diligence with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse". However, Wuerl will remain a Cardinal and a close advisor to the pope.

He added: "However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense".

Wuerl had previously offered his resignation at age 75, as is customary in the church, but he was allowed to stay on in Washington, where he had served since 2006. Oullett charged that Viganò, an ally of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, both more conservative than the current pontiff, was engaged in a "political plot" to harm Francis and "the communion of the Church". DiNardo apologized for any failures 16 years ago, admitting that allowing the priest to continue volunteer duties at a church after forced retirement was a "mistake that we regret".

"It was clear that some decision, sooner rather than later, on my part is an essential aspect so that this archdiocesan Church we all love can move forward", Cardinal Wuerl wrote in a September 11 letter to the priests of his archdiocese. He had been accused of sexually abusing several people, including children. It named more than 300 priests.

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The pope goes on to extol Wuerl's move as that of a "shepherd" who, "by widening his vision to recognize a greater good that can benefit the whole body, prioritizes actions that support, stimulate and make the unity and mission of the Church grow above every kind of sterile division sown by the father of lies".

It has been widely believed that Cardinal Wuerl hoped to remain in his position at least until the fall meeting of the US bishops' conference in November.

For the last five years, Wuerl has also been the single most important voice within the United States hierarchy defending Pope Francis, at a time when some other American bishops and Catholic leaders have struck discordant notes.

"In the meantime, names of potential leaders for the archdiocese will be submitted to the pope through the apostolic nuncio for Pope Francis to determine the next suitable archbishop". For his part, Bishop Wuerl was sent back to his native Pittsburgh, where he was installed as the diocesan bishop in March 1988.

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. He said Wuerl's resignation is "long overdue".

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