UPDATE | Archbishop defends himself amid critical report

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, says he expects a grand jury report being released Tuesday on the sexual abuse of children by clergy in six Pennsylvania Roman Catholic dioceses to be critical of his actions as the former longtime bishop of Pittsburgh.

Wuerl wrote to priests late Monday, defending himself ahead of the release of a roughly 900-page report that victim advocates call the largest and most exhaustive such review by any U.S. state.

Wuerl contended that he acted diligently to protect children while bishop of Pittsburgh for 18 years through 2006.

Despite the criticism of his actions in the report, Wuerl said he hopes “a just assessment of my actions, past and present, and my continuing commitment to the protection of children will dispel any notions otherwise made by this report.”

Court records in a largely secret, months-long legal fight over the report indicate it identifies more than 300 “predator priests” and that grand jurors accuse church leaders of brushing aside victims to protect abusers and church institutions.

Wuerl said he expects the grand jury’s findings from the 70 years it explored will be “profoundly disturbing and will open wounds among the faithful that many of us thought to be healing.”

The state Supreme Court set a Tuesday afternoon deadline for a judge mediating the legal battle between state prosecutors and lawyers for some clergy members named in the forthcoming report to sort out what information to black out.

Some clergy members challenging the report say they are wrongfully accused and are fighting to challenge the allegations against them. The identities of those clergy members remain under court seal, and the state’s high court plans to consider oral arguments on their claims in September.

In the meantime, the justices ordered the release of the report with redactions that conceal the identities of the clergy members who filed legal challenges.

Wuerl is already dealing with allegations that a predecessor, disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, allegedly sexually abused boys and adult seminarians.

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