Cardinal Wuerl's Resignation Doesn't Mean Catholic Church Is Changing Its Ways
By Paul Muschick
October 12, 2018
|Pope Francis accepted Cardinal Donald Wuerl's resignation Friday. This photo of them was taken at the Vatican in 2015. (Associated Press)|
I'm still not sure the Catholic church gets it.
The pope’s acceptance of the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl on Friday probably was viewed by many as a sign that the church is taking steps to change its ways and rebuild itself amid the fallout of the child sex abuse scandal exposed by the Pennsylvania grand jury investigation.
Here’s why I’m not so sure that’s the case.
Wuerl’s name came up often in the grand jury report. He wasn’t accused of abuse, but at times of helping to protect abusers in his role as the long-time bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The report also notes steps he took to try to rid the church of abusers.
About a month after the report was released, Wuerl wrote a blog post in which he said he wished he “could redo some decisions I have made in my three decades as a bishop and each time get it right.” In a statement Friday, he apologized “for any past errors in judgment.”
Regardless of how you feel about Wuerl, it’s clear that his continued presence as a cardinal in Washington, D.C., was becoming divisive. Pope Francis on Friday accepted the resignation that Wuerl first offered nearly three years ago when he turned 75 and offered again last month.
In their comments about the resignation, though, church officials made it a point to downplay the grand jury investigation.
“Unfortunately, the cardinal’s pioneering leadership in the enhancement, implementation and enforcement of historically innovative and rigorous child protection policies was overshadowed by the report’s flaws and its interpretation by media,” Kim Viti Fiorentino, chancellor and general counsel of the Archdiocese of Washington, said in a statement.
In a letter to Wuerl, Francis seemed to indicate Wuerl was a scapegoat.
“You have sufficient elements to ‘justify’ your actions and distinguish between what it means to cover up crimes or not to deal with problems, and to commit some mistakes,” Francis wrote in the letter, which was released publicly. “However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. Of this, I am proud and thank you.”
Wuerl served the church and the Catholic community for a long time. He deserves praise for that. The pope and others could have thanked him and lauded him, though, without even bringing up the sex abuse scandal. Instead, knowing his words would be published publicly, Pope Francis spoke to Wuerl as if he were a sacrificial lamb.