Pope calls meeting of key bishops on sexual abuse: Vatican

Blanche Robertson
September 14, 2018

As Pope Francis sat down at the Vatican Thursday with a delegation of USA bishops and cardinals to discuss how to gain ground in the sexual abuse crisis engulfing the Catholic Church, fresh scandals emerged on both sides of the Atlantic.

The revelation was the latest twist in an incredible turn of events in the US church that began with the June 20 announcement that one of the most prestigious USA cardinals, Theodore McCarrick, had been accused of groping a teenage altar boy in the 1970s.

Researchers who spent four years studying records and conducting new interviews found that 1,670 priests and other religious leaders were suspected of engaging in abuse - 4.4 percent of the total number of clergy in the country.

The 350-page report, which German Cardinal Reinhard Marx had meant to make public on September 25 during the bishops' autumn plenary assembly in Fulda, was leaked Wednesday by two prominent German media outlets: Der Spiegel and Die Zeit.

The US Bishops' Conference issued a statement after the talks "regarding the recent moral crisis in the American Catholic Church".

In response to the report, Bishop Stephan Ackermann released a written statement to CNN saying the church is "dismayed and ashamed" by the findings. Every sixth case involved rape and at least 1,670 clergy were involved, according to Spiegel Online and Die Zeit, which said they obtained the report that was due to be released September 25.

The credibility of the USA church leadership is now in tatters over the McCarrick scandal and recent revelations in the Pennsylvania grand jury report, which found that some 300 priests abused more than 1,000 children since the 1940s - and that a string of bishops in six dioceses covered up for them, including the current archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl. The Pope has so far refused to respond to these allegations.

"We are grateful to the Holy Father for receiving us in audience".

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Cardinal DiNardo, who was joined by Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the leader of the papal child protection commission, and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, the vice-president of the bishops' conference, said the bishops were now "identifying the most effective next steps", but did not spell out what those were.

In a first for the Catholic Church, Pope Francis will hold a bishops' summit to deal with sexual abuse in the clergy.

Pope Francis has ordered an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of adults against West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield and has accepted his resignation, church officials said Thursday.

Francis appointed Baltimore Bishop William Lori to take over Bransfield's diocese in West Virginia temporarily.

In a statement issued Thursday regarding the case of Bransfield, Lori said: "My primary concern is for the care and support of the priests and people of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston at this hard time", Catholic News Service reported.

Bransfield has faced allegations that he sexually abused teenage boys in the 1970s or early 1980s while a priest in Philadelphia.

A US bishop accused of molesting adults resigned on Thursday, in the latest sex abuse scandal to rock the Catholic Church. That man also said Gana told him Bransfield was having sex with a boy.

One man testified at Lynn's trial that he had been raped by the Rev. Stanley Gana at a home owned by Bransfield. He has repeatedly denied those allegations.

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