Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the embattled archbishop of Washington, said Tuesday that he expects to meet soon with Pope Francis to discuss the possibility of resigning.
In a letter to priests in the diocese, Wuerl mentioned a recent meeting with the Pope in Vatican City. He said 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 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.”
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 after 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.