Pope: Wuerl Can 'Justify' Actions Sheltering Predator Priests

Pope Francis talks as he meets youth and the Synod Fathers at the Pope Paul VI hall in Vatican

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.

The sex abuse scandal has been roiling the Catholic Church worldwide.

Simultaneously, Wuerl faced widespread skepticism over his insistence that he knew nothing about years of alleged sexual misconduct by McCarrick.

"You can not end your priestly life in an open and scandalous rebellion that inflicts a painful wound" on the church and divides its people, he ended his letter.

Following the report's release, Cardinal Wuerl said while the Grand Jury "may be critical of some of my actions" he stressed it "confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse". Called "The Wuerl Record", it was removed after criticism.

Cardinal Ouellet, head of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, said in his rebuttal that Archbishop Vigano had spoken untruths and was guilty of a "scandalous rebellion", Catholic News Service reports.

Rome's October summit of Bishops from around the world is focusing on "Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment" at a time when the Church is racked with sexual abuse scandals from countries around the world, including Pennsylvania where a report reveals seven decades of abuse of more than 1000 victims in the US.

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"(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", Pope Francis said, according to Reuters. "Of this, I am proud and thank you", the pope wrote.

The report criticised Cardinal Wuerl for his role in concealing the abuse. Cardinal Wuerl hosted both popes in Washington, D.C., during their first pastoral visits to the United States. In this capacity, Wuerl attended the 1978 conclave that elected Pope St. John Paul II as an aide to the ailing Cardinal Wright. The appointment generated serious conflict among Archbishop Hunthausen's supporters, and Bishop Wuerl was relieved of his responsibility in 1987.

Finally, it's important to say this: If Pope Francis's letter today makes anything clear, it's that he hasn't lost any respect or esteem for Wuerl - if anything, he appears to hold him in even higher regard for the "nobility" of his exit.

Archbishop McCarrick is pictured in a 2001 photo in Washington in Washington.

Wuerl was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006. He has served on a number of Vatican congregations, councils and commissions, as well as numerous national and global organizations such as the Papal Foundation and various committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He was named a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI Nov. 20, 2010.

Ouellett said he had told Vigano in person that McCarrick "was supposed to obey certain conditions and restrictions due to the rumours surrounding his past behaviour".

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.

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