Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., said he is going to Rome in the near future to discuss his potential resignation with Pope Francis. Wuerl, who led the Pittsburgh diocese for 18 years, was implicated in a recentand has faced increased calls to step down over allegations he covered up for so-called "predator priests."
On Labor Day, Wuerl met with the priests in his archdiocese. In a letter to them Tuesday, he shared his intent to meet the pope about his future. An expert we spoke to said a letter like this is highly unusual, but a resignation would be even more so.
In the letter, Wuerl said a decision on his future is "essential" so that his archdiocese "can move forward."
The letter came the same day Pope Francis drew criticism for comments he made during mass in Rome. He said bishops are under attack from the "great accuser," another name for Satan.
"It seems like the great accuser has been unchained," the pope said, adding, "He tries to uncover the sins so they are visible in order to scandalize the people."
The Pennsylvania grand jury report released last month found more than 300 Catholic priests sexually abused more than 1,000 children since 1947. Wuerl presided over 32 accused priests during his time at the Pittsburgh diocese. Among the accusations against him is that he reassigned and reinstated some of them.
"Did you ever move priests quietly?" CBS News correspondent Nikki Battiste .
"That wasn't – that wasn't our process," Wuerl responded the night before the report's release.
"Do you have any plans to resign?"
"What I want to talk about is what effort I made in my 18 years there. And that was to introduce the zero tolerance and… any priest against whom there was a credible, proven accusation, that appropriate action was taken," Wuerl had said.
Patrick Hornbeck, chair of the theology department at Fordham University in New York, said "it's anyone's guess what happens next."
"Many people are looking to Pope Francis to show a degree of leadership on this matter, that he hasn't yet shown," Hornbeck said. "I think it's fair to say that the Catholic Church, in the U.S. at least, is in a crisis that it's not seen for a long time."
We reached out to the Vatican for clarification on the pope's comments but did not hear back. Wuerl's representative told us his letter speaks for itself. The Vatican said Pope Francis will meet Thursday with the head of the U.S. bishops conference and other top U.S. church officials over the child sex abuse and alleged cover-ups.