Pope Francis Accepts Washington Archbishop Wuerl’s Resignation

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, greets police officers outside St. Patrick's Catholic Church prior to the 24th annual 'Blue Mass' May 1 in Washington, D.C.
Win McNamee / Getty Images

Pope Francis Friday reportedly accepted the resignation of Washington D.C. archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl after a recent Pennsylvania grand jury report charged him with covering up years of sexual abuse by priests, according to the New York Times.

But Pope Francis said that Wuerl, a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, would stay on as the archdiocese caretaker until a replacement is made, calling him a model for future unity in the church, the Times reported.

Wuerl told the newspaper that he would still live in the Washington D.C. area and expected to keep his Vatican position that continues to give him influence and be an adviser to the pope on the appointment of bishops.

The grand jury report, which made national headlines, mentioned Wuerl’s name more than 200 times, noting his “poor” handling of accusations against accused priests when he was the bishop of Pittsburgh, the Times reported.

The report said, according to the newspaper, that Wuerl had relied on the advice of psychologists to allow suspected priests to remain serving church.

In a letter from Pope Francis to Wuerl, the pope said the archbishop presented evidence to justify his actions. The letter, which was released by Wuerl, went on praise him for his work, the newspaper reported.

“However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. Of this, I am proud and thank you,” Pope Francis wrote to Wuerl, the newspaper stated.

The explosive nearly 900-page grand jury report tied more than 300 priests and clergy leaders with crimes that affected more than 1,000 children over seven decades in six dioceses – Pittsburgh, Erie, Greensburg, Harris, Allentown, and Scranton, according to Philly.com.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, washes the feet of 12 people while celebrating the Mass of the Lord's Supper in observance of Holy Thursday, at St. Matthew's Cathedral on March 29 in Washington, D.C.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, washes the feet of 12 people while celebrating the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in observance of Holy Thursday, at St. Matthew’s Cathedral on March 29 in Washington, D.C. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The website added, though, that dozens of pages connected to allegations and individuals were redacted. Attorney General Josh Shapiro has called for the full report to be released, Philly.com stated.

In an unprecedented filing, many grand jury members also called on their full and unredacted report should be released to the public, the website noted. The grand jury spent the better part of two years investigating claims against the Catholic Church.

“We listened as (victims) poured out their hearts telling of the agony and torment they endured since being victimized,” 20 of the panel’s members wrote in court documents, according to Philly.com. “They had waited so long to be heard; they deserve to be heard and validated.”

Mary Pat Fox, president of Voice of the Faithful, a national group formed to defend abuse survivors and advocate church reform, charged to the New York Times that the Pope Francis has not gone far enough with Wuerl.

“They’re removing him from this situation where people feel betrayed, but he’s still got all the power pretty much that he ever had. What we’re looking for is that these people are really held accountable,” Fox told the newspaper.

“I’m not saying that Cardinal Wuerl hasn’t done a lot of good in his life, but in dealing with this, it has to be a stronger reaction from the Vatican, from the pope,” she continued.