Saturday 13 October 2018

Another Catholic Cardinal - Another Catholic Abuse Scandal

Cardinal Donald Wuerl.
Donald Wuerl, DC archbishop, resigns over clerical sex abuse crisis - Vox

In what must be one of the slowest resignations on record, Pope Francis has belatedly accepted the resignation of the most senior American Catholic cleric to be embroiled in sexual abuse and cover-up scandals, Cardinal Wuerl, former Bishop then Archbishop of Pittsburgh, PA and later Archbishop of Washington DC.

Wuerl was accused in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report into Catholic clerical sexual abuse in the state of being complicit in allowing sexual abuse of young seminarians and minors by Cardinal McCarrick to continue and of simply reshuffling priests accused of abuses to other parishes, where they could continue to abuse children and have access to vulnerable people in a congregation unaware of their predilections and past activities.

In every case, Wuerl's objective was to protect the abusers and the church with little or no regard for the welfare of their victims. Recreational abuse of minors and young, vulnerable adults was seen as a perk of the job and some recompense for the 'self-sacrifice' of a life of 'celibacy'. Some of the actions to which Wuerl turned an official blind eye were clearly criminal and would have resulted in criminal charges and imprisonment if convicted, yet he failed to report any of it to the law-enforcement and child protection agencies.

In line with Catholic policy, an official of Wuerl's rank is obliged to tender his resignation to the Pope on reaching the age of 75. This is normally ignored by the Pope who permits the official to remain in post at his pleasure. However, the Pope can formally accept the resignation at any time. Wuerl turned 75 two years ago and was named in the Grand Jury report last August. It has taken Pope Francis until now to accept the inevitable, bringing to an end rumours that Wuerl was about to be sprited out of the USA to the Vatican where he would be immune from criminal charges, to live a life of 'penance'.

However, Wurl will retain his title Cardinal, and the letter accepting his resignation spoke in such glowing terms of his "nobility" that he will probably remain an influential figure in the College of Cardinals.

The fact that such a senior figure in the American Catholic Church has now resigned may be a sign that Pope Francis may be taking the fall-out from the Pennsylvania Grand Jury seriously and has begun to grasp the seriousness of the situation. It will be interesting to see if this concern continues when the other state-wide investigations begin to report, especially that of New York where the prediction is that Pennsylvania will look like small beer in comparison.

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