Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl Following Sexual Abuse Scandals

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Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as archbishop of Washington, D.C., the Vatican said on Friday, making him one of the most senior Catholic figures to step down in a worldwide sexual abuse crisis.

Wuerl has faced increasing pressure to resign ever since the publication of a grand jury report on abuses committed by priests in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.

Wuerl, 77, who was bishop of Pittsburgh between 1988 and 2006, was blamed for not doing enough to deal with paedophile priests, and instead covering up the scandal in the state of Pennsylvania.

Originally the namesake for the diocese's newest high school in Cranberry Township, North Catholic made the decision to remove Cardinal Wuerl from their name.

In it, Cardinal Ouellet both defended the pope and criticised Archbishop Vigano, asserting that the conservative cleric had used the scandal over sexual abuse in the USA to score ideological points with Francis' critics on the Catholic right.

Wuerl was born in Pittsburgh, attended Catholic University in Washington and received a doctorate in theology from the University of Saint Thomas in Rome. The report released last month documented abuse by 300 priests over the course of 70 years.

Francis accepted McCarrick's resignation as a cardinal in July after a US church investigation determined that an allegation that he groped a teenage altar boy in the 1970s was credible.

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As for the written instructions the Congregation for Bishops prepared for Archbishop Vigano in 2011 when he was to begin his service as nuncio to the United States, "they say nothing at all about McCarrick".

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, a loyal ally of Pope Francis, was criticised in a USA grand jury report in August for failing to halt abuse in his previous role as archbishop of Pittsburgh. Francis has said the devil is ultimately behind sex abuse of children by priests and current divisions in the Church.

"It was clear that some decision, sooner rather than later, on my part is an essential aspect so that this archdiocesan Church we all love can move forward", Cardinal Wuerl wrote in a September 11 letter to the priests of his archdiocese.

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Known as a key ally of Pope Francis, Wuerl sits on the Vatican committee that vets and appoints bishops around the world.

Edward McFadden, a spokesman for Wuerl, said that during the cardinal's 12 years in Washington, "not a single priest of the Archdiocese of Washington has faced a credible claim, and there is not today a single priest in ministry in Washington who has faced a credible claim". He accused right-wing Catholic websites of beginning a protest movement against Wuerl and other liberal leaders in the church. "We are going to each be asked to speak our mind on what we think needs to be done", he said.

For more on all this, we're joined by John Carr.

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. He'll be in charge in the DC archdiocese until the Vatican appoints a new archbishop to replace him.