The pope accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington today. This should have been a positive demonstration to survivors of his commitment to hold bishops accountable for mishandling clergy sex abuse cases. Wuerl was named in the recent Pennsylvania grand jury report that accused church hierarchy of covering up abuse. Pennsylvania’s attorney general said the report and documents show that “Cardinal Wuerl oversaw and participated in the cover-up” when he was the Diocese of Pittsburgh bishop from 1988-2006.
But instead of showing that he gets it and wants to help survivors by getting rid of problem bishops, Pope Francis complimented Cardinal Wuerl’s “nobility,” supported his handling of abuse cases and asked him to remain as the apostolic administrator of the archdiocese. On top of that, Cardinal Wuerl will remain a member of the Congregation for Bishops, which advises the pope on the appointment of bishops.
Earlier this year he defended Chilean bishops against accusations that they covered up abuse and said accusers were lying, before eventually saying he believed the survivors and removing bishops. In August, the Vatican’s former ambassador to the United States accused Pope Francis of covering up inappropriate behavior by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Cardinal Wuerl’s predecessor as archbishop of Washington. Cardinal George Pell, the third-ranking Vatican official and Pope Francis ally, faces legal proceedings in Australia in connection with allegations of sexual offenses; when those proceedings were initiated last year, the Vatican publicly supported Cardinal Pell but not survivors.
Pope Francis’ statement on Cardinal Wuerl Friday shows that he neither understands the problem nor wants to deal with it. One of Cardinal Wuerl’s own priests in the Archdiocese of Washington, Msgr. Charles Pope, has a solution to the problem: stay angry and continue to fight the hierarchy’s inaction and cover-ups. He recently urged fellow Catholics to demand action and not settle for mere words.
“So stay angry, my friends,” Msgr. Pope stated. “Stay angry at sin, at cover-ups, and at different standards for the powerful and those at the top. Yes, stay angry.”