Pope Francis speaks speaks with the Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl at the end of a prayer with U.S.bishops on September 23, 2015, at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. Pope Francis has accepted Wuerl's resignation, following accusations about the cardinal's role in multiple sexual abuse scandals.
Six weeks after Archbishop Vigano threw the papacy into turmoil over his claims about ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the head of the Vatican's bishops' office said there was no evidence in his files backing the archbishop's claims that Francis annulled any sanctions against McCarrick.
Cardinal Wuerl asked Pope Francis to accept his resignation on several occasions since the Pennsylvania report, but the pope demurred until now, according to a church official with knowledge of the discussions.
"The congregation's decision was inspired by prudence, and the letters from my predecessor and my own letters urged him, first through the apostolic nuncio, (Archbishop) Pietro Sambi, and then through you (Archbishop Viganò), to lead a life of prayer and penance for his own good and for the good of the church", Cardinal Ouellet wrote in an open letter to Archbishop Viganò. "Of this, I am proud and thank you", Francis wrote in the letter.
Wuerl has defended his overall record in Pittsburgh insisting he had a good past record, but progresivelly came to the conclusion that he could no longer lead the archdiocese.
He also apologised for "past errors in judgment" and asked for "pardon".
Before the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released in mid-August, the book on Donald Wuerl would have been that he was among the most influential churchmen in American Catholicism over the last fifty years, and arguably the single most important of the last 20.
Wuerl, who turns 78 in November, technically tendered his resignation upon reaching age 75, as all Catholic bishops and cardinals do.
The Vatican was informed about the seminarian complaints as far back as 2000. Wuerl initially questioned Bendig's account but later accepted it and moved to oust Cipolla from the priesthood.
Ouellet said the claims were "monstrous" and "blasphemous", telling Vigano in his letter, "Come out of hiding, repent for your revolt and return to better feelings towards the Holy Father instead of worsening hostility against him". "There are not many people in the church who are totally enthusiastic about all three of them". They resented his pivotal role a decade ago in resisting a push by some of his fellow bishops to deny Communion to Catholic politicians who support the right to abortion.
"But if archaic, predatory-friendly laws were reformed and if more prosecutors showed real courage, these complicit clerics might face criminal charges, and that might make a real difference, " he said in a statement. He joined the priesthood in 1966 and was ordained a bishop in 1986 by Pope John Paul II in 1986.