Cardinal Donald Wuerl (Photo: World Tribune)
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of the Washington, D.C. Diocese, has an undeserved reputation as a “zero-tolerance” prelate when it comes to dealing with pedophile priests.
As cardinals from around the world filed into the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday, March 12, 2013, to elect the successor to Saint Peter, a great deal of pre-conclave speculation focused on the possibility of the election of the first American pope in history. The names of three U.S. cardinals were mentioned in a report on NPR’s “Morning Edition” by political reporter Cokie Roberts: Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. Roberts cited Dolan for his telegenic, charismatic personality, O’Malley, a Capuchin Franciscan friar, for his down-to-earth humility, and Wuerl for his “management” expertise. There is a notion that the Vatican needs to undergo a sea change to regain its role as a moral authority, thus the focus on out-of-the-box thinking that might open the door at St. Peter’s to an American prelate. The odds against that happening are extremely long, but having Cardinal Wuerl in the mix may be a reflection of his “zero-tolerance” for pedophile priests that won him public acclaim during his years as a bishop.
The new Pope will also have to face the charges of mismanagement at the Vatican bank and somehow find a way to move beyond the devastating revelations about the bitter infighting in the Vatican’s central administration known as the Curia. This embarrassing episode was set off in early 2012 when the Pope’s butler leaked an enormous stash of papal documents to an Italian reporter that provided an unprecedented inside look at the dysfunctional workings of the Vatican. Known as VatiLeaks, the expose was, no doubt, among the factors that led to Pope Benedict’s stunning announcement in February that he would end his eight-year reign and become the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.
But no matter what else the new Pope does, he must be able to move the Catholic Church beyond the priest sex-abuse scandals that have engulfed the church for the last three decades. Other issues are also important, but cleansing the clergy of pedophiles is the most basic challenge the new Pope must meet.