Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl named to College of Cardinals
Wednesday, October 20, 2010; 11:42 PM
Pope Benedict XVI named Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl and 23 other Catholic leaders to the elite College of Cardinals on Wednesday, choosing men who share his orthodox approach to Catholic doctrine.
With the announcement, Benedict, 82, has named more than 40 percent of the cardinals who will determine the direction of the church by choosing the next pontiff.
Many of the new cardinals, elevated during the pope's weekly address in St. Peter's Square, are eager to engage with Catholics who have been alienated by rigid dogma and by the clergy sex abuse scandal, which first exploded in the United States and has now erupted in Europe and other parts of the world.
At the same time, they are generally unyielding on many of the issues that have dogged the church in recent years, rejecting tolerance for birth control, same-sex marriage, female clergy and the idea that Jesus is not the only route to salvation.
"The voice of the church should be a teaching voice," said Wuerl in a phone interview after his selection. "It should be a voice of persuasion. It should be offering spiritual, pastoral guidance."
Wuerl, 69, is considered a leading catechist, or teacher of Catholic doctrine, and a diplomat on volatile social issues. He is well known for refusing to deny Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. Wuerl has said he cannot deny the sacrament to a willing participant, because he cannot know what is inside a person's heart when that person shares private worship with God.
By contrast, Raymond Burke, the only other American named cardinal Wednesday, argues against giving Communion to politicians who support abortion rights. Burke, who is the former archbishop of St. Louis and works in a top position at the Vatican, has been vocal in criticizing President Obama.
Despite Catholicism's rapid growth in Asia and Africa, 10 of the new cardinals are Italian, which led some church experts to conclude that Benedict is trying to battle increasing secularism on Catholicism's home turf.
Others wondered whether the growing number of Italian cardinals could lead to an Italian pope. Pope John Paul II, a native of Poland, was the first non-Italian pontiff in almost 500 years. Benedict, who was elected pontiff in 2005 at the age of 78, is German.
On Wednesday, Vatican watchers were abuzz analyzing the names amid preparations for the elaborate Nov. 20 elevation ceremony in Rome.
George Weigel, a conservative Catholic writer and papal biographer, said the list contained no surprises. It was heavy on archbishops from major dioceses and administrators from key offices in the Vatican.