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Incoming archbishop faces criticism over abuse cases

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Critics: Wester ‘failed to act aggressively’ as point man for priest sex-abuse cases

Salt Lake City Bishop John C. Wester, right, answers questions with outgoing Santa Fe Archbishop Michael Sheehan at a news conference Monday in Albuquerque announcing his appointment at Santa Fe Archbishop. Sheehan said he is ‘happy to pass the responsibilities of the archdiocese on to Wester,’ who will be installed June 4 in Santa Fe. Russell Contreras/The Associated Press

When Salt Lake City Bishop John Wester takes over as the head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe this summer, he’ll inherit a flock haunted for decades by allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

During his introduction last week, Wester referred to sex abuse as “a terrible, terrible sin” and called protection of children in the church “more important than anything.”

In the journey that brings him to Santa Fe, Wester climbed the ranks of the Catholic Church. As vicar for clergy in the Archdiocese of San Francisco from 1998 to 2007, he took on duties that involved sorting out the rampant sexual-abuse claims that have rattled the church globally for the past two decades.

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