Pope Francis Summons Bishops for Sex Abuse Summit

Pope Francis in Vatican City Italy on Sept. 5 2018

The U.S. conference of bishops issued what is considered the gold-standard policy in 2002, requiring accusations of abuse to be reported to police and the permanent removal from ministry of any priest found to have abused a minor.

Pope Francis has ordered an investigation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., in connection with sexual harassment charges and accepted his resignation, the Vatican announced Thursday.

With the Catholic Church in crisis once again over clerical sex abuse and cover-up, Pope Francis will meet today with U.S. cardinals and bishops who are demanding to know how one of their own was able to climb the clerical ranks despite allegations that he slept with seminarians.

As is customary when Catholic bishops turn 75 years old, Cardinal Wuerl tendered his resignation almost three years ago, but the Pope did not accept it at that time.

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.

The summit recalls the April 2002 meeting John Paul called with the senior United States church leadership after the sex abuse scandal first exploded publicly in Boston.

The head of the Catholic church said the devil "had it in" for bishops "in order to scandalise the people".

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In a more recent letter addressed to the priests of Washington, D.C., Wuerl indicated that he intends, "in the very near future, to go to Rome to meet with our Holy Father about the resignation I presented almost three years ago, November 12, 2015".

The pope instructed Baltimore Archbishop William Lori to conduct an investigation into Bishop Bransfield and appointed him as the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the head of all USA bishops, pushed for this meeting and wants a Vatican investigation into how disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick rose to the highest levels of the church despite allegations of sexual misconduct. "It was a lengthy, fruitful, and good exchange", the statement said.

Francis meets on Thursday with U.S. Church leaders to discuss that report as well as a scandal involving a former American cardinal and demands from an Italian archbishop, Carlo Maria Viganò, that the pontiff step down over that case.

Communications director for the diocese Tim Bishop says work the Catholic Church does supporting communities throughout the state will continue, but that Bransfield is no longer living in the region.

The pope is scheduled to meet with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as his top adviser, at the Vatican on September 13 to discuss clergy sex abuse, the media reports. He's denied all allegations.

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