On October 12, Pope Francis officially accepted the resignation of Washington’s archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, from the high-profile post Wuerl had occupied for 12 years. Wuerl’s resignation was the latest and most direct casualty of the sex-abuse scandal that for years has been rocking the Catholic Church. More specifically, Wuerl — a close ally of Pope Francis — stepped down as a result of a nearly 900-page Pennsylvania grand jury report from 2018, which detailed the extent of the rampant sexual abuse of priests against children and of the systemic cover-up of the crimes.
Cardinal Wuerl was among those accused of covering for abusive priests in the grand jury’s exhaustive investigation of Pennsylvania’s dioceses, including the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which Wuerl had headed from 1988 to 2006. As a consequence of his role in re-assigning or reinstating priests accused of sexual abuse, Wuerl requested that the Pope accept the resignation he had previously submitted in 2015, at age 75, as is tradition. Although Pope Francis accepted Wuerl’s resignation, he nevertheless requested that Wuerl stay on as apostolic administrator of the diocese until a new Archbishop to Washington, D.C. is selected.
It was, however, the Pope’s heaping of praise on Wuerl that especially angered the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of clerics. In his letter accepting Wuerl’s resignation, Francis wrote:
“To our Venerable Brother Card. Donald William Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington,
“On September 21st I received your request that I accept your resignation from the pastoral government of the Archdiocese of Washington.