A top bishop has denied claims by the Vatican's former USA envoy that Pope Francis covered up sex abuse by former Washington Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and should therefore resign.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican-based Congregation for Bishops, issued a public three-page letter on October 7 censuring the former Vatican nuncio to the United States Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, for attacking Pope Francis. The decision came after months in which Wuerl initially downplayed the scandal, insisted on his own good record, but then progressively came to the conclusion that he could no longer lead the archdiocese. "Once again for any past errors in judgment I apologise and ask for pardon".
The Vatican press office October 6 published a statement saying Pope Francis has decided that as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith continues its investigations into the sex abuse allegations against Cardinal McCarrick, "a further thorough study of the entire documentation present in the archives of the dicasteries and offices of the Holy See regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick" will take place.
"You have sufficient elements to "justify" your actions and distinguish between what it means to cover up crimes or not deal with problems, and to commit some mistakes".
Vigano released a second statement on September 29 saying that the Vatican has yet to respond to his accusations and that Francis has "compared me to the great accuser, Satan, who sows scandal and division in the Church - though without ever uttering my name".
Wuerl had submitted his resignation to Francis almost three years ago, when he turned 75, the normal retirement age for bishops.
After the meeting with the pope, neither the bishops nor the Vatican mentioned an investigation.
In August, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a grand jury report detailing sexual abuse. Simultaneously, Wuerl faced widespread skepticism over his insistence that he knew nothing about years of alleged sexual misconduct by McCarrick.
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In 1993, he defied the Vatican in refusing to reassign predator priest Anthony Cipolla, but the grand jury report also cites cases in which Wuerl acted slowly in removing priests from ministry.
The Cardinal has been a figure of much contention since June, however, because of his relationship to disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and his role in handling clerical sexual abuse cases as Bishop of Pittsburgh.
On Labor Day, Wuerl met with the priests in his archdiocese. As for not attempting to defend himself, Wuerl didn't mind when the archdiocesan office did it for him. Wuerl was in Washington on Friday morning.
On the abuse crisis, Wuerl also would have been as among the more aggressive American bishops in supporting and implementing a "zero tolerance" policy - ironically, a reputation that reached back to his time as the bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006.
"My resignation is one way to express my great and abiding love for you, the people of the Church of Washington", he said.
The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest who writes for Religion News Service, described Wuerl as an ideological moderate.
Finally, it's important to say this: If Pope Francis's letter today makes anything clear, it's that he hasn't lost any respect or esteem for Wuerl - if anything, he appears to hold him in even higher regard for the "nobility" of his exit. But he said it would likely do little to deter others in the hierarchy from covering up for abusers.