On Friday, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of embattled Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., who has been accused of covering up sexual abuse during his time as the bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 until 2006.
Wuerl said in August that he acted “with diligence” and had no role in the scandal, which was uncovered by a Pennsylvania grand jury report that implicated some 300 priests who over the past 70 years allegedly carried out sexual abuse against more than 1,000 children.
The pope clearly stands by the 77-year-old cardinal. In his letter, he didn’t criticize Wuerl. Instead, he claimed Wuerl had “sufficient elements to justify” his decisions, according to CNN.
Earlier today, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, accepted my resignation as Archbishop of Washington that I first offered almost three years ago. Read his beautiful letter and my statement here: https://t.co/iIoPrGgU86
— Cardinal Wuerl (@Cardinal_Wuerl) October 12, 2018
“However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense,” Francis wrote. “Of this, I am proud and thank you. In this way, you make clear the intent to put God’s Project first, before any kind of personal project.”
In a statement of his own, Wuerl simply asked to be forgiven for his “past errors in judgement.”
Cardinal Wuerl is mentioned throughout the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report as helping to cover up the predatory behavior of priests and indeed to help them go parish to parish. This week he made numerous comments defending himself that are contradicted in the report. https://t.co/nmLKI49e2w
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) August 19, 2018
“The Holy Father’s decision to provide new leadership to the Archdiocese can allow all of the faithful, clergy, religious and lay, to focus on healing and the future,” he said. “Once again, for any past errors in judgment, I apologize and ask for pardon.”
Wuerl technically tendered his resignation when he turned 75, as all Catholic cardinals and bishops do. Cardinals, though, are often allowed to keep serving until they turn 80 years old.
The pope did ask Wuerl to stay on as the archdiocese’s apostolic administrator until a replacement is found.