Pope accepts Archbishop Wuerl’s resignation but still praises him

Cardinal Donald Wuerl has resigned

Cardinal Donald Wuerl has resigned

Pope Francis sent Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl a warm letter in accepting his resignation, praising what he said was Wuerl's nobility and sacrifice in stepping down for the greater good of the Catholic Church.

In this September 23, 2015, file photo, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C., left, looks toward the crowd with Pope Francis after a Mass outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

A sweeping USA grand jury report released in August revealed credible allegations against 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.

The grand jury report found that 1,000 people - majority children - had been abused by 301 clergymen over the course of 70 years in six diocese in Pennsylvania. After the Philadelphia Grand Jury Report was released, he published a website that defended his handling of clerical sexual abuse cases.

"Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has accepted the resignation first offered on November 12, 2015, when I reached my 75th birthday. If Wuerl did these things, the pope should make an example of him to show that if it can happen to a cardinal, it can happen to any priest". "My resignation is one way to express my great and abiding love for you the people of the Church of Washington". But the pope's gentle words and lack of condemnation angered those who feel top Catholic leaders continue to shirk responsibility for the global crisis. 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". "I also beg forgiveness on behalf of church leadership from the victims who were again wounded when they saw these priests and bishops both moved and promoted".

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, and head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is also confronting allegations he ignored rampant sexual abuse of children by a priest under his purview when he was a bishop in Sioux City, Iowa. Recently, there have been allegations of sexual abuse by priests in Germany, the US and Chile.

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"Francis would want to take his time in finding a successor in sympathy with his vision of where the Church should be going", said Father Tom Reese, author of several books on the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. The archbishop of Washington was recently named in a report accusing church leaders of covering up sexual abuse.

The shoe finally dropped for Cardinal Donald Wuerl, but it hasn't quite hit the floor yet. He'll be in charge in the DC archdiocese until the Vatican appoints a new archbishop to replace him.

Cardinal Wuerl replaced Cardinal McCarrick as Washington's archbishop after he retired in 2006.

In a glowing letter of support, Francis made clear that he accepted Wuerl's resignation reluctantly, at Wuerl's insistence, and believed he was not guilty of trying to hide abuse. In a letter to them earlier this month, he shared his intent to meet the pope about his future.

Ultimately, the drama surrounding Wuerl's resignation is only partially about Wuerl himself - it's also about who's next.

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