Cardinal Donald Wuerl told his priests in a letter Tuesday that he will travel to Rome “very soon” to discuss his resignation with Pope Francis.
BREAKING: In letter to priests today Cardinal Wuerl writes that he will travel again to Rome soon to meet with Pope Francis and discuss resignation. pic.twitter.com/CrzkcA0SYh
According to a copy of the note, written on Archdiocese of Washington letterhead and posted to Twitter by the Rev. Kevin Cusick, Cardinal Wuerl has been discerning for more than a week “the best course of action for me to pursue as we face new revelations of the horror of the extent of the clergy abuse of children and the failure of episcopal oversight.”
“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 to him nearly three years ago, November 12, 2015,” the letter says.
Cardinal Wuerl, as is customary, presented his resignation from the College of Cardinals upon his 75th birthday three years ago. However, a pope is not obliged to accept such a resignation and Pope Francis has essentially kept Cardinal Wuerl in office in Washington ever since.
In the note, Cardinal Wuerl acknowledged that many Catholics in the archdiocese “have questions about their bishop’s ability to provide the necessary leadership.” He also admits that “some decision, sooner rather than later, on my part is an essential aspect” in the archdiocese moving forward.
In recent weeks, the Catholic Church, and Cardinal Wuerl in particular, have been rocked by a Pennsylvania grand-jury report on the mishandling of sex abuse charges by six of the state’s dioceses and by the recent revelations of decades of serial sexual abuse and misconduct by his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.
The grand jury’s report focused on not just the sexual abuse — ranging from fondling to rape — committed by priests, but the role of the church’s bishops, including Cardinal Wuerl when he was bishop of Pittsburgh, in moving miscreants to other parishes, in silencing or buying off victims and families, and in not reporting criminal acts to authorities.
The Vatican announced Tuesday that Francis will meet this week with two other U.S. cardinals, one of whom has said he wants a full-scale Vatican investigation of Archbishop McCarrick.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Francis’ top adviser on the sex abuse crisis Thursday at the Apostolic Palace. A Vatican statement said the meeting also will include Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez and Monsignor Brian Bransfield.
Cardinal Di Nardo has said he wants Francis to authorize a probe of Archbishop McCarrick. The Vatican has known since at least 2000 that the archbishop would habitually invite seminary students to his New Jersey beach house and into his bed.
Archbishop DiNardo also has said the church must answer accusations by the former Vatican ambassador to the U.S. that Francis and other top Vatican officials have covered up for Archbishop McCarrick since 2000.