Pope accepts resignation of Cardinal Wuerl amid coverup scandal

Pope accepts resignation of Cardinal Wuerl amid coverup scandal
Pope accepts resignation of influential U.S. cardinal implicated in alleged sex abuse coverup
Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl after Wuerl became entangled in two major sexual abuse and cover-up scandals and lost the support of many in his flock.

But in a letter released by Wuerl's office, Francis praised his longtime ally and suggested Wuerl had unfairly become a scapegoat, having made some "mistakes" in handling sex abuse cases, but not having covered them up.

His 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. Wuerl initially questioned Bendigs account but later accepted it and moved to oust Cipolla from the priesthood. The Vaticans highest court ordered Wuerl to restore Cipolla to priestly ministry, but Wuerl resisted and, after two years of legal procedures, prevailed in preventing Cipollas return.

With the resignation, Wuerl becomes the most prominent head to roll in the scandal roiling the Catholic Church after his predecessor as Washington archbishop, Theodore McCarrick, was forced to resign as cardinal over allegations he sexually abused at least two minors and adult seminarians.

Wuerls archdiocese issued a series of similar plaudits on Friday, coinciding with the Vatican announcement. They included a letter from the archdiocesan chancellor, Kim Vitti Fiorentino, who lamented that Wuerls \”pioneering leadership in the enhancement, implementation and enforcement of historically innovative child protection policies was overshadowed by the (Pennsylvania grand jury) reports flaws and its interpretation by the media.\”

A Vatican statement Friday said Francis had accepted Wuerl's resignation, but named no replacement; Wuerl's office provided the letter in which the Pope asked him to stay on in a temporary capacity until a new archbishop is found.

The decision came after months in which Wuerl, who turns 78 in November, initially downplayed the scandal, insisted on his own good record, but then progressively came to the conclusion that he could no longer lead the archdiocese.

In his letter accepting the resignation, Francis said he recognized that in asking to retire, Wuerl had put the interests and unity of his flock ahead of his own ambitions, as all shepherds must do.

Terrence McKiernan, president of the online abuse database BishopAccountability, said it showed that for Francis, \”Cardinal Wuerl is more important than the children he put in harms way. Until Pope Francis reverses this emphasis on coddling the hierarchy at the expense of children, the Catholic Church will never emerge from this crisis.\”

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

Numerous conservative Catholic activists and commentators, though, considered him too tolerant of the LGBT community and too liberal on some other issues. They resented his pivotal role a decade ago in resisting a push by some of his fellow bishops to deny Communion to Catholic politicians who support the right to abortion.

Wuerl had submitted his resignation to Francis nearly three years ago, when he turned 75, the normal retirement age for bishops. But Francis kept him on, as Popes tend to do with able-bodied bishops who share their pastoral priorities.

But a grand jury report issued in August on rampant sex abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses accused Wuerl of helping to protect some child-molesting priests while he was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006. Simultaneously, Wuerl faced widespread skepticism over his insistence that he knew nothing about years of alleged sexual misconduct by McCarrick.

Wuerl was also named prominently in the 11-page denunciation of the McCarrick coverup that was penned by the Vaticans former ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who accused a long line of U.S. and Vatican churchmen of turning a blind eye to McCarricks penchant for sleeping with seminarians.

Wuerl has not been charged with any wrongdoing but was named numerous times in the grand jury report, which details instances in which he allowed priests accused of misconduct to be reassigned or reinstated.

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

In one case cited in the report, Wuerl — acting on a doctor's recommendation — enabled priest William O'Malley to return to active ministry as a canonical consultant in 1998 despite allegations of abuse lodged against him in the past and his own admission that he was sexually interested in adolescents. Years later, according to the report, six more people alleged that they were sexually assaulted by O'Malley, in some cases after he had been reinstated.

In another case, Wuerl returned a priest to active ministry in 1995 despite having received multiple complaints that the priest, George Zirwas, had molested boys in the late 1980s.

\”The Holy Fathers 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,\” Wuerl said in a statement Friday. \”Once again for any past errors in judgment I apologize and ask for pardon.\”

Wuerl apologized for the damage inflicted on the victims but also defended his efforts to combat clergy sex abuse.

A Vatican statement Friday said Francis had accepted Wuerls resignation, but named no replacement; in his letter, the pope asked him to stay on in a temporary capacity until a new archbishop is found and implied he was accepting the resignation reluctantly.

His 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. Wuerl initially questioned Bendig's account, but later accepted it and moved to oust Cipolla from the priesthood. The Vatican's highest court ordered Wuerl to restore Cipolla to priestly ministry, but Wuerl resisted and, after two years of legal procedures, prevailed in preventing Cipolla's return.

But Wuerl made a personal appeal to Francis last month to accept the resignation, following the fallout of the McCarrick scandal and outrage over the Pennsylvania grand jury report that has led to a crisis in confidence in the church hierarchy.

"No bishop or cardinal in the nation has had a more consistent and courageous record than Donald Wuerl in addressing priestly sexual abuse," contends Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League.

\”He was totally enthusiastic about John Paul II, and then Pope Benedict, and now hes totally enthusiastic about Pope Francis,\” Reese said. \”There are not many people in the church who are totally enthusiastic about all three of them.\”

Wuerl's archdiocese issued a series of similar plaudits on Friday, coinciding with the Vatican announcement. They included a letter from the archdiocesan chancellor, Kim Vitti Fiorentino, who lamented that Wuerl's "pioneering leadership in the enhancement, implementation and enforcement of historically innovative child protection policies was overshadowed by the [Pennsylvania grand jury] report's flaws and its interpretation by the media."

A joint statement by Washington auxiliary bishops also praised Wuerl for his service and pastoral care, and said his decision to step down was a "clear manifestation of his love and concern for the people of the archdiocese."

Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest who writes for Religion News Service, described Wuerl as an ideological moderate.

Survivor advocate David Clohessy of the group SNAP said Wuerls \”long-overdue\” resignation might give solace to victims. But he said it would likely do little to deter others in the hierarchy from covering up for abusers.

"He was totally enthusiastic about John Paul II, and then Pope Benedict, and now he's totally enthusiastic about Pope Francis. There are not many people in the church who are totally enthusiastic about all three of them."

Numerous conservative Catholic activists and commentators, though, considered him too tolerant of the LGBT community and too liberal on some other issues. They resented his pivotal role a decade ago in resisting a push by some of his fellow bishops to deny Communion to Catholic politicians who support the right to abortion.

VATICAN CITY— Pope Francis accepted the resignation Friday of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl after he became entangled in two major sexual abuse and coverup scandals and lost the support of many in his flock.

Wuerl was born in Pittsburgh, attended Catholic University in Washington and received a doctorate in theology from the University of Saint Thomas in Rome. He joined the priesthood in 1966, was ordained a bishop by Pope John Paul II in 1986 and served briefly as auxiliary bishop in Seattle before going to Pittsburgh.

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VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis accepted the resignation Friday of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl after he became entangled in two major sexual abuse and coverup scandals and lost the support of many in his flock.

The Air Canada captain, identified in NTSB documents as Dimitrios Kisses, was supposed to report the San Francisco incident to the airline as soon as possible but didn't because he was "very tired" and it was late. He waited until the next day. By that time, the plane was used for another flight, and the audio loop on the cockpit voice recorder was taped over.

But in a letter released by Wuerl’s office, Francis praised his longtime ally and suggested Wuerl had unfairly become a scapegoat, having made some “mistakes” in handling sex abuse cases, but not having covered them up.

This desolate village, deep in the far northern Arkhangelsk region, is the hometown of one of the suspected GRU Russian military intelligence agents who is believed to have poisoned a former Russian spy in Britain. The other alleged attacker and an alleged military intelligence operative accused of a hacking attack in the Netherlands come from equally dismal places.

With the resignation, Wuerl becomes the most prominent head to roll in the scandal roiling the Catholic Church after his predecessor as Washington archbishop, Theodore McCarrick, was forced to resign as cardinal over allegations he sexually abused at least two minors and adult seminarians.

Owning a car in Loyga is almost pointless — all but two roads are mud and navigable only by all-terrain vehicles. Most of the houses are unpainted, looking leaden in the constant autumn drizzle. Only one train a day connects it with Moscow, stopping for just one minute for visitors to descend onto a bare platform with a line of oil tank cars on the side track.

A Vatican statement Friday said Francis had accepted Wuerl’s resignation, but named no replacement; in his letter, the pope asked him to stay on in a temporary capacity until a new archbishop is found.

"I've found a number of people that have tattoos of his image on their arms … a lot of popular murals and artwork on the streets of the capital," Chesnut continued. "So yeah, it's a real, genuine kind of grass-roots, working-class, popular devotion that you don't often see with a lot of other, European-born Catholic saints."

The decision came after months in which Wuerl, who turns 78 in November, initially downplayed the scandal, insisted on his own good record, but then progressively came to the conclusion that he could no longer lead the archdiocese.

“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,” Wuerl said in a statement Friday. “Once again for any past errors in judgment I apologize and ask for pardon.”

Chacon maintains a collection of Romero memorabilia — his cassock, a shirt, a postcard he sent the family from Mexico City's Torre Latinoamericana, at that time the tallest skyscraper in the Americas — and hundreds have come to the home to hear her. On a recent day she showed a photo of him taken in March 1980, days before his death.

In his letter accepting the resignation, Francis said he recognized that in asking to retire, Wuerl had put the interests and unity of his flock ahead of his own ambitions, as all shepherds must do.

Unlike Texas, where people turn themselves in on the banks of the Rio Grande, the smugglers in in Arizona have been dumping groups of migrant families on a remote dirt road running along the southern limit of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument west of the Lukeville border crossing with Mexico. Summer temperatures there can soar close to 49 C.

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

In July, a newly opened shopping mall on the south side of Mexico City partially collapsed. A support beam at the Artz Pedregal mall failed, allowing operators to evacuate the mall so that no one was injured when the top floors collapsed about five minutes later. Parts of the mall had still been under construction even though it opened in March.

Wuerl had submitted his resignation to Francis nearly three years ago, when he turned 75, the normal retirement age for bishops. But Francis kept him on, as popes tend to do with able-bodied bishops who share their pastoral priorities.

But a grand jury report issued in August on rampant sex abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses accused Wuerl of helping to protect some child-molesting priests while he was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006. Simultaneously, Wuerl faced widespread skepticism over his insistence that he knew nothing about years of alleged sexual misconduct by McCarrick.

Two larger groups of migrants from Guatemala and Honduras were also found abandoned last week near Yuma. Border Patrol officers said 108 people were found just before midnight Oct. 2 a half-mile west of the San Luis Port of Entry and five hours later, agents apprehended 56 Central Americans a mile east of the same border crossing.

Wuerl has not been charged with any wrongdoing but was named numerous times in the grand jury report, which details instances in which he allowed priests accused of misconduct to be reassigned or reinstated.

In one case cited in the report, Wuerl – acting on a doctor’s recommendation – enabled priest William O’Malley to return to active ministry as a canonical consultant in 1998 despite allegations of abuse lodged against him in the past and his own admission that he was sexually interested in adolescents. Years later, according to the report, six more people alleged that they were sexually assaulted by O’Malley, in some cases after he had been reinstated.

In another case, Wuerl returned a priest to active ministry in 1995 despite having received multiple complaints that the priest, George Zirwas, had molested boys in the late 1980s.

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

Wuerl apologized for the damage inflicted on the victims but also defended his efforts to combat clergy sex abuse.

The fervour for Romero has grown so much that the cathedral crypt where his remains were interred can barely handle the thousands of pilgrims who arrive to pray in front of his tomb, beseech him for intervention or give thanks. Many also visit the hospital chapel where he was murdered while celebrating Mass.

His 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. Wuerl initially questioned Bendig’s account but later accepted it and moved to oust Cipolla from the priesthood. The Vatican’s highest court ordered Wuerl to restore Cipolla to priestly ministry, but Wuerl resisted and, after two years of legal procedures, prevailed in preventing Cipolla’s return.

The five-member board determined last month that the incident was caused by the Air Canada pilots being confused because one of two parallel runways was closed that night. The closure was noted in a briefing to the pilots, and nine other planes had made routine landings after the runway was shut down.

“No bishop or cardinal in the nation has had a more consistent and courageous record than Donald Wuerl in addressing priestly sexual abuse,” contends Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League.

"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," Wuerl said in a statement Friday. "Once again for any past errors in judgment I apologize and ask for pardon."

Wuerl’s archdiocese issued a series of similar plaudits on Friday, coinciding with the Vatican announcement. They included a letter from the archdiocesan chancellor Kim Vitti Fiorentino, who lamented that Wuerl’s “pioneering leadership in the enhancement, implementation and enforcement of historically innovative child protection policies was overshadowed by the (Pennsylvania grand jury) report’s flaws and its interpretation by the media.”

A joint statement by Washington auxiliary bishops also praised Wuerl for his service and pastoral care and said his decision to step down was a “clear manifestation of his love and concern for the people of the archdiocese.”

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest who writes for Religion News Service, described Wuerl as an ideological moderate.

“He was totally enthusiastic about John Paul II, and then Pope Benedict, and now he’s totally enthusiastic about Pope Francis,” Reese said. “There are not many people in the church who are totally enthusiastic about all three of them.”

Numerous conservative Catholic activists and commentators, though, considered him too tolerant of the LGBT community and too liberal on some other issues. They resented his pivotal role a decade ago in resisting a push by some of his fellow bishops to deny Communion to Catholic politicians who support the right to abortion.

Survivor advocate David Clohessy of the group SNAP said Wuerl’s “long-overdue” resignation might give solace to victims. But he said it would likely do little to deter others in the hierarchy from covering up for abusers.

“But if archaic, predatory-friendly laws were reformed and if more prosecutors showed real courage, these complicit clerics might face criminal charges, and that might make a real difference,” he said in a statement.

Wuerl was born in Pittsburgh, attended Catholic University in Washington and received a doctorate in theology from the University of Saint Thomas in Rome. He joined the priesthood in 1966, was ordained a bishop by Pope John Paul II in 1986, and served briefly as auxiliary bishop in Seattle before going to Pittsburgh.