Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali is set to resign today, five months after a grand jury report alleged his failure to investigate sexual abuse claims. On Thursday, the National Catholic Reporter said that officials in Rome will now to accept his resignation. After initially stating that no active priests "have an admitted or established allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against them," in March Rigali suspended 21 priests accused of sexual abuse.
Along with the 21 priests suspended, three others were already on administrative leave and five more would have been suspended, but three were no longer active and two were no longer in the archdiocese. Also, another official was charged with transferring "predator priests" to other locations. The grand-jury report also alleged that as many as 37 priests remained active in the ministry despite credible accusations against them.
Rigali became Cardinal in 2003, replacing Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. Archbishops Charles Chaput of Denver and Wilton Gregory of Atlanta are considered the frontrunners to replace Rigali. His resignation also comes as the Philadelphia Archdiocese is in a significant downsizing effort.
Before taking his current post, Rigali was Archbishop in St. Louis. As a matter of Cardinal Law, all Cardinals must send their resignations when they turn 75. The Pope can then decide when he will accept them. Sources suggest that Rigali was not ready to leave so soon.
The Roman Catholic Church's internal review board stated that Rigali and his bishops "failed miserably at being open and transparent." These reports all come at a time when the Roman Catholic Chuch worldwide is facing an overwhelming number of abuse allegations. Many observers claim that Philadelphia will serve as a bellweather for the United States in the scandal.
If Regali is responsible for covering up abuse, he is no better than the priests who committed it. He should be exposed to the full weight of the law. If he is allowed to walk away from prosecution because of his position, it will be a stain on the criminal justice system.
Some may believe that he faces a much more serious penalty in the afterlife. That's irrelevant in terms of justice. If the allegations are proven, real, tangible and permanent damage was done here on earth. And there are enough jail cells here on earth to hold the ones who did the damage.
Do you believe that the Roman Catholic Church is irreparably damaged by the sex scandals involving its priests?
Image: Cardinal Justin Rigali - Image Source: Wikimedia Commons