The current Catholic pope, Pope Benedict XVI, accepted the resignation of a Philadelphia archbishop this morning. Cardinal Justin Rigali was asked to step down after the archdiocese began facing accusations that it was covering up a sex abuse scandal for which the Cardinal attempted to improve the transparency of.
The Cardinal had been widely scrutinized by church officials for the way he handled the recent long-running sex abuse scandal. According to court reports, Cardinal Rigali testified on two separate occasions that he believed that Catholic Church officials were deliberately covering up sex abuse allegations against local priests. The testimonies were recorded in 2005 as well as recently in February of 2011.
Many believe that the Cardinal’s February 2011 testimony is largely responsible for the unprecedented criminal charges that were filed against a former secretary of the clergy for “allegedly transferring pedophile priests without warning new parishes.”
A grand jury ended up specifically accusing no less than 37 clergy in active ministry despite credible claims that they were responsible for the sexual assault of minors. Former archdiocesan administrator in Philadelphia, Monsignor William Lynn, was also charged with child endangerment for allegedly leaving the accused clerics in church jobs without warning parents or police.
Some say Cardinal Rigali went against the church official community grain by responding to reports of the charges by suspending 23 priests and hiring two former city prosecutors to review the abuse cases thoroughly.
Cardinal Rigali was an archbishop of St. Louis and spent three decades as a Vatican diplomat and high-level administrator before serving his eight year tenure in the Philadelphia area. Pope Benedict’s acceptance of the resignation this week sent the Philadelphia bishop into immediate retirement just before his 80th birthday. Find out more here.