PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Cardinal Justin Rigali is expected to step down Tuesday after eight tumultuous years leading the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Rigali, 76, is under pressure for his handling of a long-running priest sex-abuse scandal.
The independent National Catholic Reporter, citing unnamed sources, reported that Pope Benedict XVI will name Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver to succeed him.
The Philadelphia archdiocese declined comment on Rigali’s departure, which the Philadelphia Daily News and other news outlets also reported.
The transition comes as the archdiocese is defending unprecedented criminal charges filed against a former secretary of clergy for allegedly transferring pedophile priests without warning new parishes.
In a stunning column published earlier this year, the head of the archdiocese’s lay review panel on abuse, Ana Maria Catanzaro, said Rigali and his bishops “failed miserably at being open and transparent” when dealing with accused priests.
Rigali submitted his resignation on his 75th birthday last year, as required under canon law, but the pope has not yet acted on it.
The scandal has surfaced twice during his tenure as head of the archdiocese of nearly 1.5 million people.
The Philadelphia grand jury that recommended the criminal charges this year faulted Rigali for keeping many area priests in active ministry despite credible allegations of sexual abuse. And a 2005 grand jury report charged that Rigali and his predecessor hid credible sex-abuse complaints made against dozens of Philadelphia priests.
The archdiocese called the first report “a vile, mean-spirited diatribe,” though Rigali apologized to victims in a letter to parishioners.
Rigali, a former archbishop of St. Louis, spent three decades as a Vatican diplomat and high-level administrator.
Chaput, 66, is known as an outspoken U.S. bishop who criticizing Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, speaking out against government playing too big a role in health care and opposing gay marriage and stem-cell research.
In 2010, he defended a decision by a Catholic school in Boulder not to re-enroll two children of a lesbian couple. Chaput said the parents of Catholic school students are expected to agree with church beliefs, including those forbidding sex between anyone other than married, heterosexual couples.
In Philadelphia, Rigali has overseen the closing of dozens of Catholic schools because of declining enrollment, but he also spearheaded the construction of two suburban high schools and a church for a burgeoning immigrant Hispanic community.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)