Pope calls unprecedented meeting of top officials over sexual abuse

Lamar Ellis
September 14, 2018

The Americans have called on Francis to launch a Vatican-led investigation into how Theodore McCarrick, a former United States cardinal, climbed the ranks, even as rumours swirled about his behaviour.

DiNardo, of the archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in Texas, requested the meeting with the pontiff as the Catholic Church in the U.S. faces clerical sex abuse scandals on several fronts.

Pope Francis has ordered an investigation into an American bishop accused of sexually harassing adults.

The USCCB headquarters in Washington, D.C., released a short statement more than three hours after the meeting saying the pope had "listened very deeply from the heart" as they spoke to him in "a lengthy, fruitful and good exchange" about how the USA church had been "lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse".

Those allegations against Bransfield are not included the statement.

A former ambassador to the Holy See, Monsignor Carlo Vigano, has even demanded the pope's resignation, accusing him of covering up for McCarrick.

In a letter to priests sent earlier this week, Wuerl said he planned to meet with Pope Francis "in the near future" to discuss his possible resignation.

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A statement from the U.S.C.C.B. described the meeting as a "lengthy, fruitful and good exchange" and said the bishops told Francis how the church in the United States has been "lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse".

Francis removed him in July when the allegations were deemed credible, and since then, several other former seminarians and priests have come forward saying they were also abused or harassed by McCarrick.

The McCarrick affair - coupled with revelations in the Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing decades of abuse and cover-up in six dioceses, including Allentown - has fueled outrage among the rank-and-file faithful who had trusted church leaders to reform themselves after the abuse scandal first erupted in Boston in 2002.

The Vatican and US church officials announced the investigation on Thursday as the pope was meeting US Catholic church leaders to discuss a scandal that has shaken his papacy. Victims' groups have long said that the Vatican needs to better address how to deal with prelates who cover up abuse, and how to ensure that abuse victims have a clear way to report what happens to them.

There was no immediate indication from the Vatican as to whether the Pope would authorise a visitation into the McCarrick affair, although there is speculation that a lay-led board will be set up to investigate claims made against bishops. The mass aims to "give voice to the pain and suffering of the survivors of clergy sexual abuse and failures in episcopal oversight, while also recognizing the pain and wound of the whole Church", he wrote.

In Germany, a church study published in a magazine on Wednesday showed 1,670 clerics and priests had sexually abused 3,677 minors, mostly males, in the country between 1946 and 2014.

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