In this September 23, 2015, file photo, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C., left, looks toward the crowd with Pope Francis after a Mass outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.
Wuerl offered his resignation to Pope Francis weeks ago after he became subject to scrutiny for his handling of child sexual abuse while leading the Pittsburgh Diocese. The Attorney General continued, "The grand jury report, and diocesan records documented Wuerl oversaw and participated in a systematic cover up".
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".
Bishops are asked to submit their resignation at 75, but continue in their role until the Pope chooses to accept it.
"My resignation is one way to express my great and abiding love for you, the people of the Church of Washington", he said. Rodgers formerly worked as a local newspaper reporter in Pittsburgh who covered the religion beat and Bishop Wuerl's 18-year tenure in the Steel City.
Allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy worldwide continue to affect the Church.
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Francis' praise alarmed survivors' advocates, who said it was evidence of the clerical culture Francis himself denounces in which the church hierarchy protects its own. 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.
The report is thought to be the most comprehensive to date into abuse in the U.S. church, but while prosecutors have filed charges against two priests, the vast majority of crimes happened too long ago to prosecute under current laws.
It has been widely believed that Cardinal Wuerl hoped to remain in his position at least until the fall meeting of the US bishops' conference in November. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1966 and went on to receive a doctorate in 1974. In this capacity, Wuerl attended the 1978 conclave that elected Pope St. John Paul II as an aide to the ailing Cardinal Wright.
Wuerl's powers are limited to "caretaking" of the church until a new archbishop is named for the Archdiocese of Washington, the Rev. William Byrne, pastor of Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac, Maryland, told WTOP.
"So whoever is pope, he's going look at that person and say, 'How is the Spirit speaking to us through the Vicar of Christ?'"
Despite a personal formality that sometimes struck observers as aloofness, McGuire said she found Cardinal Wuerl to be self-effacing, humble, approachable and genuinely interested in people.
Wuerl's defenders have cited a case that surfaced in 1988, when a 19-year-old former seminarian, Tim Bendig, filed a lawsuit accusing a priest, Anthony Cipolla, of molesting him.
The Father Wuerl was appointed an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Seattle in 1986, following a Vatican investigation into Seattle's Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen.