INTERNATIONAL - Pope accepts embattled American archbishop's resignation

Cardinal Donald Wuerl has resigned

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Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl who has been implicated in the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church.

After his resignation was announced October 12, Cardinal Wuerl said in a statement: "Once again for any past errors in judgment, I apologize and ask for pardon".

Wuerl had previously offered his resignation at age 75, as is customary in the church, but he was allowed to stay on in Washington, where he had served since 2006. In an interview, Cardinal Wuerl said that he would continue to live in Washington and that he expected to keep his position in Vatican offices that exert great influence, including one that advises the pope on the appointment of bishops'.

The 77-year-old embattled traveled to Rome in September to ask Pope Francis to accept the resignation letter that he submitted nearly three years ago upon reaching the customary retirement age of 75.

In one case cited in the report, Wuerl - acting on a doctor's recommendation - enabled priest William O'Malley to return to active ministry in 1998 despite allegations of abuse lodged against him in the past and his own admission that he was sexually interested in adolescents.

Wuerl also faced accusations from a former papal diplomat that he knew about accusations that his predecessor in Washington, former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, had sexually abused seminarians.

But victims advocacy groups were outraged.

Wuerl had previously asked Pope Francis to accept his resignation on multiple occasions since the report, but the pope had demurred, a church official told the Journal.

Wuerl was first seen as a rising star in the Catholic hierarchy decades ago, when he appeared to risk his career to report an abuse case.

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"A number of dioceses across the world called to ask if they could use part or all of the plan", Timoney said.

Wuerl apologized for the damage inflicted on the victims but also defended himself and his effort to combat clergy abuse. The Vatican announced that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield, a close associate of McCarrick's.

Wuerl has not been charged with any wrongdoing but was named numerous times in the grand jury report, which details instances in which he allowed priests accused of misconduct to be reassigned or reinstated.

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"Would you please", he told the priests, "let the faithful you serve know of my love, my commitment to do whatever is necessary to right what is wrong and my honest solidarity with you and them". The archbishop of Washington was recently named in a report accusing church leaders of covering up sexual abuse.

The Pope said Friday that he had also received a September 21 request from Cardinal Wuerl that his resignation be accepted.

Wuerl called the pope's letter a "very, very beautiful" recognition and noted that this decision will "permit this local church to move forward".

The cardinal's supporters have argued that he was an early leader on the issue of clergy sex abuse, and that he did as much as he could to remove unsafe individuals from ministry before the USA bishops' 2002 Dallas Charter instituted new norms and canonical tools. But I think what we face in the church today, and have for quite some time, is a crisis of leadership.

The crisis in the USA church has also become a rare unifier of both conservative and liberal Catholics calling for continued investigations of church leadership, and prompted attorney generals from more than a dozen states to launch investigations of their own.

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