Pope says the Devil is to blame for the church scandals

Pope Francis held talks with Cardinal Daniel Di Nardo

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Washington DC archbishop Donald Wuerl, who has been criticised for his handling of sexual abuse cases.

The U.S. cardinal's statement was published the same day Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, responded to allegations by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former nuncio to the United States, that Pope Francis knew about and ignored the allegations against then-Cardinal McCarrick.

For the last five years, Wuerl has also been the single most important voice within the United States hierarchy defending Pope Francis, at a time when some other American bishops and Catholic leaders have struck discordant notes.

"(The Church must be) saved from the attacks of the malign one, the great accuser and at the same time be made ever more aware of its guilt, its mistakes, and abuses committed in the present and the past", Francis said in a message on September 29.

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. The pope also praised Cardinal Wuerl's "nobility" in choosing to step down rather than defend his record under fire.

Addressing Archbishop Vigano as "dear brother", Cardinal Ouellet said, "I understand how bitterness and disappointments have marked your path in the service of the Holy See, but you can not conclude your priestly life this way, in an open and scandalous rebellion".

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"Once again for any past errors in judgment I apologize and ask for pardon", he said.

In accepting your resignation, I ask you to remain as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese until the appointment of your successor. The Pennsylvania grand jury report released in August found more than 300 Catholic priests sexually abused more than 1,000 children since 1947. He was often the glue holding a divided bishops' conference in America together, and he was also the most important interpreter and ally of Pope Francis in a sometimes-skeptical Catholic culture in the US. "I strongly doubt that McCarrick interested him as much as you would like us to believe, given the fact that he was an 82-year-old archbishop emeritus who had been without a post for seven years".

Wuerl's archdiocese issued a series of similar plaudits on Friday, coinciding with the Vatican announcement.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest who writes for Religion News Service, described Wuerl as an ideological moderate.

It is noted that now deepens the polarization between conservatives and liberals in the Church. 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.

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