Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the embattled archbishop of Washington, will travel to the Vatican “in the very near future” to ask Pope Francis to accept his resignation, a spokesman said.
In a letter to priests in the diocese, Wuerl said he will meet with Francis about the resignation he presented nearly three years ago at age 75, the mandatory age for Catholic bishops to submit their retirement to the Pope. He said a decision about his future “is an essential aspect so that this archdiocesan church we all love can move forward.”
“Our discernment here, I believe, has indicated the way forward to bring healing and a new beginning at the service of this church,” Wuerl said.
Ed McFadden, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington, said on Wednesday that Wuerl will ask Pope Francis to accept his resignation. McFadden said he did not know when the meeting would occur. A contingent of American bishops is meeting on Thursday with the Pope in Rome, but Wuerl is not among them, according to the Vatican.
At a recent meeting with the Pope in Vatican City, Wuerl said in his letter, the Pope asked him to consider the best course of action “as we face new revelations of the extent of the horror of the clergy abuse of children and the failures in episcopal oversight.”
Wuerl is facing increasing scrutiny both over what he may have known about abuse allegations against his predecessor, former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in Washington, and how he handled abusive priests while he headed the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Wuerl has “categorically denied” that any information about accusations against McCarrick was ever brought to him. He has also defended his overall record handling clerical abuse in Pittsburgh, even while acknowledging “errors in judgment.”
In his letter Tuesday, the cardinal wrote, “At issue is how to begin effectively to bring a new level of healing to survivors who have personally suffered so much and to the faithful entrusted to our care who have also been wounded by the shame of these terrible actions and have questions about their bishop’s ability to provide the necessary leadership.
Francis plans to meet on Thursday at the Vatican with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Pope’s top adviser on clergy sex abuse.
Earlier this month, Wuerl acknowledged the turmoil surrounding his leadership — and the Catholic Church’s leadership — amid a slew of multistate abuse-related investigations.
Wuerl’s record has come under fire in the wake of a damning grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania. Wuerl is portrayed as having a checkered record of protecting predator priests.
In June, McCarrick was removed from public ministry because of a decades-old allegation of sexual abuse.
McCarrick was also accused three times of sexual misconduct with adults “decades ago” while he served as a bishop in Metuchen and Newark, New Jersey, the current bishops of those cities said then. Two of those allegations resulted in settlements, the bishops said.
McCarrick is one of the highest-ranking American leaders in the Catholic Church to be removed from ministry because of sex abuse charges.
He has maintained his innocence.