Catholic abuse scandal
October 12, 2018

On Friday, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Catholic archbishop of Washington, D.C. Wuerl, who previously served as Pittsburgh's bishop, was named by a Pennsylvania grand jury as one of the Catholic officials who covered up clergy sexual abuse of children. He also became embroiled in the scandal centered around his predecessor in Washington, former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. All bishops submit their resignations to the pope when they turn 75; Wuerl turns 78 in November. The Vatican did not immediately name Wuerl's successor.

Wuerl, once viewed as a reformer on clergy sex abuse, flew to the Vatican in mid-September to discuss his resignation with Francis. The pope's "decision to provide new leadership to the archdiocese can allow all of the faithful, clergy, religious, and lay, to focus on healing and the future," Wuerl wrote in a statement released Friday. "It permits this local church to move forward. Once again for any past errors in judgment I apologize and ask for pardon. My resignation is one way to express my great and abiding love for you the people of the Church of Washington." Peter Weber

October 6, 2018

Pope Francis has authorized a "thorough study," the Vatican said Saturday, of all its documents pertaining to the sexual abuse allegations against Theodore McCarrick, a prominent cardinal and former archbishop of Washington, D.C., who resigned in July.

An August letter from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano alleged McCarrick's misconduct with seminarians was known in Catholic hierarchy for years, and that Francis removed sanctions against him despite this knowledge. The letter called for Francis himself to resign.

The pope initially refused to comment on Vigano's charge. By permitting an examination of the paper trail, the Vatican said, Pope Francis has determined to "follow the path of truth, wherever it may lead."

Read The Week's Matthew Walther on McCarrick and the Catholic Church's broader sexual abuse scandal here. Bonnie Kristian

September 17, 2018

Pope Francis on Saturday defrocked the Reverend Cristian Precht Bañados of Chile after a five-year investigation into allegations that he sexually abused children.

The expulsion is thought to be the first of its kind in modern Catholic history and is sure to raise questions of whether similar consequences will come for priests credibly accused of sexual misconduct in the United States and around the world. In Chile alone, 158 clergy and lay Catholics are under state investigation for sexual abuse, and a former priest was arrested there last month on charges of abusing seven children.

Precht, who was a popular human rights advocate before this scandal came to light, has denied the accusations of abuse. "I absolutely deny participating, in any way, in the acts which I'm slanderously being accused of," he said, per a local news report. "I will defend my personal and clerical honor in every way I can and any time it's violated." Bonnie Kristian

September 12, 2018

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Catholic archbishop of Washington, told priests in the archdiocese Tuesday that after speaking with them on Labor Day, "I intend, in the very near future, to go to Rome to meet with our Holy Father about the resignation I presented nearly three years ago," when he hit the retirement age of 75. He did not say if he will ask Pope Francis to accept his resignation, but with parishioners and some clergy angry over his role in handling child sex abuse cases when he was archbishop of Pittsburgh, it's "clear that some decision, sooner rather than later, on my part is an essential aspect so that this archdiocesan Church we all love can move forward," Wuerl wrote.

Wuerl, who has led the Washington archdiocese since 2006, spoke with Pope Francis once since a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August recounted his mixed record on handling priests accused of sexual abuse. In that conversation, The Washington Post reports, the pope told him to consult the priest in the archdiocese to determine what he should do. Wuerl can request to step down as archbishop, but Francis will have the final say. He did not give any timing for his visit to Rome. Peter Weber

September 7, 2018

The attorneys general of New York and New Jersey announced statewide independent investigations of Catholic dioceses on Thursday, saying the residents of their states deserve the same kind of accounting of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy as Pennsylvania delivered in August. In the three weeks since a Pennsylvania grand jury detailed more than 1,000 allegations of child sex abuse by 300 predatory priests over seven decades, the attorneys general of Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, and New Mexico have also launched inquiries into Catholic clergy sex abuse, The New York Times reports. Most bishops have said they will cooperate with the investigations, and in some cases, they requested them.

Every statewide investigation is a little different, given differing restraints on what attorneys general can and are willing to do. In Missouri, for example, Attorney General Josh Hawley is having a team examine sex abuse records that St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson voluntarily handed over; Hawley said he has neither subpoena power nor the ability to impanel a grand jury. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, who did reportedly subpoena all abuse-related documents from New York's eight dioceses, said she will coordinate her investigation with local district attorneys. In New Jersey, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal appointed prosecutor Robert Laurino to head up a task force that will have subpoena power through a grand jury. Peter Weber

August 26, 2018

On Sunday, Pope Francis told journalists to decide on their own whether there is any truth to former Vatican official Carlo Maria Vigano's claim that Francis knew in 2013 about allegations of sexual misconduct against Theodore McCarrick, a cardinal who resigned in July.

"It's an act of trust," he said. "I won't say a word about it." Vigano's document "speaks for itself," he added. In an 11-page letter published Saturday, Vigano, the former Vatican ambassador to the United States, said he told Pope Francis there was a "dossier this thick" about McCarrick and seminarians, further alleging that McCarrick "corrupted generations of seminarians and priests, and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance." In his letter, the conservative Vigano, who has semi-publicly clashed with Pope Francis before, also called for the pope to resign. Catherine Garcia

August 26, 2018

An 11-page letter from retired Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former Vatican ambassador (or nuncio) to the United States, accuses Pope Francis of covering for and elevating Theodore McCarrick, a prominent cardinal and former archbishop of Washington, D.C., who resigned his post in July amid sexual abuse allegations. Vigano's missive, published Saturday, calls for Francis to resign as well.

Per Vigano's account, McCarrick's misconduct with seminarians was known in Catholic hierarchy for years, and former Pope Benedict XVI ordered him to seclusion for prayer and penance nearly a decade ago. Pope Francis allegedly removed those unconfirmed sanctions and made McCarrick "his trusted counselor" despite knowing him to be a "serial predator."

In June 2013, Vigano says, Pope Francis asked his assessment of McCarrick during a private audience. "Holy Father, I don't know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation of Bishops, there is a dossier this thick about him," Vigano says he replied. "He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests." Vigano writes he now believes Francis was being "deceitful," gauging whether Vigano "was an ally of McCarrick or not."

Vigano is a conservative who has clashed with the more liberal Francis. His letter also accuses a number of other high-ranking ecclesial figures, some of whom have also had conflict with Vigano in the past. Vigano told the National Catholic Register he wrote the letter to help "stop the suffering of the victims, to prevent new victims, and to protect the Church: Only the truth can make her free." Bonnie Kristian

August 25, 2018

Pope Francis arrived in Ireland Saturday, making the first papal visit to the traditionally Catholic country in four decades. He gave a speech at Dublin Castle, directly addressing the sexual abuse scandal currently engulfing the Catholic clerical hierarchy.

"I cannot fail to acknowledge the grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the Church charged with responsibility for their protection and education," Francis said. "The failure of ecclesiastical authorities — bishops, religious superiors, priests, and others — to adequately address these repellent crimes has rightly given rise to outrage, and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. I myself share those sentiments."

The pope will meet with victims of clerical sexual abuse later Saturday and will give a Mass for 500,000 at Dublin's Phoenix Park on Sunday before departure.

Read The Week's Matthew Walther and Rachel Lu on what should be done about the Catholic Church's turmoil. Bonnie Kristian

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