.- In the ten days since the publication of an Aug. 14 Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse, newspapers around the country have run op-eds calling for Cardinal Donald Wuerl to resign as Archbishop of Washington.
His hometown newspaper, the Washington Post, even ran a guest column dubbing Wuerl the “con man in the cardinal’s cap.” Technically, of course, Wuerl resigned from his post in 2015, and is now only waiting for Pope Francis to accept that resignation. But, until recently, many expected Wuerl to stay in his post until 2020 or close to it. The popular movement calling for his resignation is a surprise even for many of those who watch episcopal appointments closely.
It was rumored last week that Wuerl would announce that his resignation had been accepted at an Aug. 20 meeting of his priests’ council. When that didn’t happen, rumors began to swirl that Wuerl’s tenure would come to an end Aug. 24, or that it would be announced Aug. 27.
Multiple sources close to the cardinal have told CNA that they have gotten no word that Wuerl’s resignation will be accepted imminently, and a few say that Wuerl could still be Archbishop of Washington when the U.S. bishops convene in November. But whenever it happens, it seems likely that Wuerl will leave his post in Washington sometime soon.
As the pope considers when to accept Wuerl’s resignation, he must also decide who should replace the cardinal as Archbishop of Washington.
The choice of Wuerl’s successor will be significant. In fact, the decision will likely set the tone for the Church’s ongoing response to the crisis that began June 20, when the Archdiocese of New York announced it had deemed credible an allegation that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick sexually abused a teenager in the 1970s.
There are three prongs to the present crisis.
The first is that occasioned by McCarrick’s situation directly- the concern that a man alleged to have sexually coerced and abused two minors and several seminarians and priests was able to occupy prominent positions of ecclesial responsibility without intervention by Church authorities, even after he was the subject of legal settlements negotiated by dioceses in New Jersey. That concern was exacerbated by allegations raised by Pennsylvania’s grand jury report, which alleged that Wuerl, among others, did not sufficiently address or disclose allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct on the part of priests.
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