Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of the Philadelphia diocese, which has been the center of a major sex abuse scandal. Rigali handed in his resignation on his 75th as is customary in the Catholic Church. It is not clear whether the abuse allegations played a role in Pope Benedict XVI’s decision on Tuesday to accept the resignation.
In February, a grand jury found evidence the archdiocese under Rigali had conspired to cover up sexual misconduct by as many as 37 priests. A month later, Rigali suspended 21 priests accused of sexually abusing minors.
Rigali “never appreciated what a disaster he was involved in,” said Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, an organization that documents cases of sexual abuse by priests throughout the United States. “Those grand jury reports have reframed Philadelphia in the first decade of the 21st century as the place where the sex-abuse crisis played out and in that, Rigali failed,” McKiernan said.
Rigali will be replaced by 66-year-old Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, who has won some praise for his handling of priest sex abuse cases, but who has also won a reputation as a staunch conservative and opponent of abortion and gay marriage.