Bishop Michael Olson of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, has said in a letter to his diocese from July that he has "zero tolerance for sexual abuse" and that any victims should come forward "without fear of retribution, no matter the status of the perpetrator".
Cardinal Wuerl asked the priests "for prayers for me, for forgiveness for my errors in judgment, for my inadequacies and also for your acceptance of my contrition for any suffering I have caused, as well as the grace to find, with you, ways of healing, ways of offering fruitful guidance in this darkness".
This Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015 file photo shows Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, left, talking with Pope Francis after a Mass in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.
"However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defence. Of this, I am proud and thank you", Francis wrote in the letter.
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While he maintained a relatively low political profile in Washington, Wuerl's resignation caps a stunning fall from grace for one of the world's most powerful Catholic leaders.
Allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy worldwide continue to affect the Church.
"One would expect, then, a carefully-worded and diplomatic send-off from the Pope on such an occasion, but Pope Francis' letter goes far beyond this".
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In August, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a grand jury report detailing sexual abuse. By seemingly downplaying the gravity of these sins and Wuerl's moral culpability for them, he is thereby participating in these sins. Francis has said the devil is ultimately behind sex abuse of children by priests and current divisions in the Church.
In another case, Wuerl returned a priest to active ministry in 1995 despite having received multiple complaints that the priest, George Zirwas, had molested boys in the late 1980s. Wuerl initially questioned Bendig's account but later accepted it and moved to oust Cipolla from the priesthood.
On Saturday, Francis ordered an investigation into the Vatican archives over the allegations. He earlier served as an auxiliary bishop of Seattle from 1986 until 1988, when he was named bishop of Pittsburgh, where he served for 18 years.
Wuerl's archdiocese issued a series of similar plaudits on Friday, coinciding with the Vatican announcement.
Wuerl, Pittsburgh's bishop from 1988 to 2006, was accused in the grand jury report of allowing accused priests to remain in the ministry.
The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest who writes for Religion News Service, described Wuerl as an ideological moderate.
That could mean Wuerl's role as a "chief conduit" between the U.S. Church and Francis will stay in place, and his influence with the pope is unlikely to be diminished - if anything, since his retirement may afford him more time in Rome, it might even grow. Years later, according to the report, six more people alleged that they were sexually assaulted by O'Malley, in some cases after he had been reinstated.
David Clohessy is with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. But he said it would likely do little to deter others in the hierarchy from covering up for abusers.