Published: Sat, October 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Pope: Wuerl Can 'Justify' Actions Sheltering Predator Priests

Pope: Wuerl Can 'Justify' Actions Sheltering Predator Priests

In a letter to Cardinal Wuerl obtained by CNA Oct. 12, Pope Francis told the cardinal: "Your renunciation is a sign of your availability and docility to the Spirit who continues to act in his Church".

"However", the letter continued, "your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense". Once again for any past errors in judgment I apologize and ask for pardon.

In one case cited in the report, Wuerl - acting on a doctor's recommendation - enabled the Rev. William O'Malley to return to active ministry in 1998 despite allegations of abuse lodged against him in the past and his own admission that he was sexually interested in adolescents.

Here are excerpts of the letter, in which Francis asks Wuerl to remain on in a temporary position until his successor is found.

Wuerl's predecessor as Washington archbishop, Theodore McCarrick, was forced to resign as cardinal over allegations he sexually abused at least two minors and adult seminarians. We are aware of our need for prayers as we prepare for the November meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, so that we can more effectively respond to the pastoral and spiritual needs of God's people with a firm resolve to live a life of integrity and holiness. But cardinals are often allowed to serve until they are 80.

Francis ordered McCarrick to retire to a life of prayer and penitence after American Church officials said as part of a separate investigation that allegations that McCarrick had sexually abused a 16-year-old boy nearly 50 years ago were credible and substantiated.

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".

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"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.

The shoe finally dropped for Cardinal Donald Wuerl, but it hasn't quite hit the floor yet.

In an October 12 statement, Cardinal Wuerl wrote that "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". He earlier served as an auxiliary bishop of Seattle from 1986 until 1988, when he was named bishop of Pittsburgh, where he served for 18 years. The appointment generated serious conflict among Archbishop Hunthausen's supporters, and Bishop Wuerl was relieved of his responsibility in 1987. He then moved to the Diocese of Washington D.C. and was eventually named a Cardinal in the Catholic Church.

It is my hope and prayer that Our Lord Jesus will bless Cardinal Wuerl and all those in the Archdiocese of Washington with grace, peace and strength today and always.

And as a member of the Congregation for Bishops, Wuerl will still shape the American church for decades to come by helping to pick its bishops.

Benedict XVI appointed him archbishop of Washington in 2006, upon the retirement of the now-disgraced McCarrick, who had led the archdiocese since 2001.

Wuerl's archdiocese issued a series of similar plaudits on Friday, coinciding with the Vatican announcement. "And that was to introduce the zero tolerance and... any priest against whom there was a credible, proven accusation, that appropriate action was taken", Wuerl had said. As for not attempting to defend himself, Wuerl didn't mind when the archdiocesan office did it for him.

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