Culture Beat / October 12, 2018

Pope Accepts Cardinal Wuerl’s Resignation But…

The disgraced archbishop will remain in his role until his successor is appointed.

With the recent revelations from a grand jury report of a decades-long cover-up scandal within six Catholic Dioceses in Pennsylvania of sexual abuse perpetrated at the hands of priests, one particular individual’s name repeatedly came to the forefront: Cardinal Donald Wuerl. He was implicated for his role in enabling the sexual abusers. Wuerl served as the bishop in Pittsburgh from 1988 until 2006 and then as the archbishop in Washington, DC, until today, when Pope Francis finally accepted his resignation.

As Becket Adams of the Washington Examiner reports, “For the record, the misconduct for which Wuerl stands accused is no small matter. When he served as the bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006, he ‘permitted to occur on [his] watch’ the crimes of at least three predatory priests, including one named George Zirwas, according to a Pennsylvania grand jury report released earlier this year…The Pittsburgh diocese received complaints alleging Zirwas was sexually abusing children between 1987 and 1995. Wuerl did nothing. Rather, he shuffled Zirwas around the state, during which time the abusing cleric joined a ‘ring of predatory priests.’”

However, Francis appears to dismiss the severity of Wuerl’s misconduct, praising him in a letter where he writes, “This request rests on two pillars that have marked and continue to mark your ministry: to seek in all things the greater glory of God and to procure the good of the people entrusted to your care.” The pope then rather astoundingly adds, “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. However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. Of this, I am proud and thank you.” Come again? In fact, Wuerl is accused of doing exactly the opposite — he worked to cover-up sexual abuse for decades, and instead of truly dealing with the problem of predatory priests, he simply moved them to other communities where they subsequently continued in their pederasty.

Finally, to add insult to injury, Wuerl is not actually gone from the Washington Archdiocese, but remains as apostolic administrator per Francis’ instruction “until the appointment of your successor.” It will be telling to see how long it takes Francis to name that successor.

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