Cardinal Wuerl on his resignation, Pope Francis’ letter and more

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In an exclusive conversation with America, conducted Oct. 11, Cardinal Donald Wuerl spoke about the reasons he asked the pope to accept his resignation, stating that “what is important now is to be able to move beyond the questions of doubt, fallibility and not concentrating on myself but helping this church to get to a new place.”

He also discussed the personal letter Pope Francis sent him upon accepting his resignation Oct. 12, as well as his 18 years as a bishop in Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania grand jury report, his 12 years as archbishop of Washington D.C., the McCarrick case, the accusations leveled against him and the pope by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet’s response.

“I was very moved that [the pope’s letter] it highlights what is so important to me, namely that the shepherd’s first responsibility is to his flock, is to the people entrusted to his pastoral care and that the unity of the flock is so important,” Cardinal Wuerl told America when asked for his reaction to the letter from Pope Francis.

“I felt that my ability to be able to serve that unity would have required concentrating on a defense of myself and of my actions and that would, I believe, have taken us in the wrong direction rather than trying to do the healing and unity as quickly as possible. That’s why I asked the Holy Father to accept my resignation so that a new and fresh leadership did not have to deal with these other issues.”

In his letter, Pope Francis appeared to believe that while the cardinal committed “some mistakes,” he did not engage in “cover up” or fail “to deal with problems.”

When asked if that was how he saw it, too, the cardinal responded: “Yes, and I said that. I made errors of judgment when we were dealing with all those cases before the Dallas Charter.

“Some of those errors in judgment were based on professional psychological evaluations, some of the errors were based on moving too slowly as we tried to find some verification of the allegations. Those were all judgmental errors, and I certainly regret them.”

And, he added, “I think it is also worth noting that all those priests who were faced with allegations in my time there, if there was any substantiation for them they were removed from any ministry that would put them in contact with young people.”

He said, “I think what we can say is that a careful reading of the [Pennsylvania grand jury] report and the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s response, which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed to be attached to the grand jury report, shows that I acted in a very responsible way to remove predator priests.”

When asked if he wished he had done anything differently during his 18 years as a bishop in Pittsburgh, the cardinal said: “It’s a hard question to answer because in those early years of my ministry, that was before the change in canon law, before the Essential Norms, there were a lot of things that I did that went in the direction of trying to get some proof of allegations.

“I think where we are today is a different place. When an allegation is made today without any corroborating testimony or proof, the person is still put on leave.

“I think had that practice and that approach to canon law been operative when I began ministry in Pittsburgh, things would have been very different. Then we were required to have some modicum of proof before moving out the person.”

In his letter of August 25, Archbishop Viganò attacked Pope Francis for allegedly covering up Archbishop McCarrick’s abuse and accused him of lifting the sanctions that Benedict XVI had imposed on McCarrick.

He also accused Cardinal Wuerl of not enforcing the secret sanctions.

Last Sunday, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, of which Cardinal Wuerl is also a member, responded in an open letter to Archbishop Viganò’s attack against the pope, addressed the question of sanctions and stated, “I conclude that the accusation is a political plot devoid of real foundation that could incriminate the pope and has profoundly wounded the communion of the church.”

Asked if he agrees with the Canadian cardinal when he calls Archbishop Viganò’s attack “a political plot [set up],” Cardinal Wuerl responded: “In my read of that testimony, particularly the part that touches me, it is not faithful to the facts.

“There can be reasons for that, and I think Cardinal Ouellet is touching on what may be the primary one. In his testimony, Archbishop Viganò clearly says that there were secret sanctions in some form.

“But he also says himself that he never communicated them to me.

“Yet this should have been his duty.

“I find it difficult to accept his version that he holds me responsible for implementing something he never passed on or his gratuitous insult that I must be a liar when I say that I never received these secret sanctions.

“Certainly I would never have guessed that there were sanctions against Cardinal McCarrick from all the times I encountered him at receptions and events hosted by Archbishop Viganò at the Apostolic Nunciature.

“The gap between what he says and what he did and his easy calumny call into question for me the real intent and purpose of his letter.” Continue reading

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