Cardinal Wuerl Will Meet with Pope to Discuss His Resignation

American Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, attends a news conference at the North American College in Rome March 4, 2013. (REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi )

Cardinal Wuerl sent a letter to Washington archdiocese priests Tuesday announcing that he will meet with Pope Francis to discuss his resignation following accusations that he concealed fellow priests’ sexual abuse and allowed them to remain in their posts.

Wuerl was accused in a recent Pennsylvania grand jury report of failing to address the rampant sexual abuse of minors by the clergy during his time as bishop of Pittsburgh. The report, which identifies over than 1,000 victims abused by more than 300 priests over a 70-year period, accuses Wuerl of transferring abusive priests to different parishes and concealing their abuse from parishioners and law enforcement.

Demands for his resignation began immediately after the grand jury report was released and intensified following Cardinal Maria Vigano’s open letter, which accused Wuerl and Pope Francis of enabling Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to continue his ministry long after they were aware he had sexual relations with numerous seminarians and was under investigation for molesting a 14-year-old boy.

“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,” Wuerl wrote in the letter to the priests in his charge. “As a fruit of our discernment I intend, in the very near future, to go to Rome to meet with our Holy Father about the resignation I presented nearly three years ago, November 12, 2015.”

Wuerl has denied knowledge of McCarrick’s alleged abuse and propensity for pursuing his seminarians, though critics — including attorney general of Washington Karl Racine, the president of Trinity Washington University, fellow priests, and sexual abuse survivors — have disputed his denial and called for his resignation. These critics point out that McCarrick’s sexual overtures toward seminarians were common knowledge among the clergy and further cite the archdiocese’s payment of two legal settlements to McCarrick’s victims made during Wuerl’s tenure.

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