Cardinal Wuerl, who is considered a moderate and a supporter of Francis’ style of papacy, spoke in the interview about the constructive role he hoped to play at the annual meeting of American bishops in Baltimore in No. “We are going to each be asked to speak our mind on what we think needs to be done,” he said.
And as a member of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Wuerl will still shape the American church for decades to come by helping to pick its bishops.
That situation — of resigning under a cloud while maintaining Vatican power and status — recalls what happened to former Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston. After resigning in disgrace as archbishop in 2002, Cardinal Law kept his position on the Congregation for Bishops for a while, then lived out his years in Rome, where he was warmly welcomed at Vatican ceremonies and given an important basilica in Rome as his titular church.
The allegations against Cardinal Wuerl are complicated, and they pale in comparison with the cover-up by Cardinal Law, who moved abusive priests from to parish, rather than dismissing them, enabling the abuse to continue.
In the interview, Cardinal Wuerl bristled at the mention of Cardinal Law’s name. “I really can’t get into a comparison like that because I’m not certain at all that I can be faulted with reassigning over and over again priests who abused,” he said.
Asked what message it sent that Francis had kept him in power in Washington despite public outcry for accountability, he said, “Stepping aside as archbishop is an enormous and very painful step for me.”
Edward McFadden, a spokesman for Cardinal Wuerl, said that during the cardinal’s 12 years in Washington, “not a single priest of the Archdiocese of Washington has faced a credible claim, and there is not today a single priest in ministry in Washington who has faced a credible claim.” And during the cardinal’s 18 years as bishop of Pittsburgh, he said, “there were no cover-ups of claims of abuse.”
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