Pope to Meet With US Cardinals, Bishops About Clergy Sex-Abuse Scandal

September 11, 2018 Updated: September 11, 2018

Pope Francis will meet this week with a delegation of top U.S. cardinals and bishops over the sex-abuse and coverup scandal that has been rocking the Roman Catholic Church—and his own papacy—according to the Vatican.

The Sept. 13 conference at the apostolic palace in Rome is expected to address the burgeoning crisis facing the church in the United States, sparked in part by the bombshell grand jury report released by Pennsylvania last month that accused 301 “predator priests” of sexually abusing children.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said on Sept. 11 that the pontiff will meet with his top sex-abuse adviser Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, and some other U.S. church officials.

The planned meeting comes a month after DiNardo first requested a meeting with the pope in August to authorize a full-fledged Vatican investigation into former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was credibly accused of sexually abusing a boy and whom Francis had allegedly protected for years already.

In July, Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation. Not long after, a former Vatican ambassador to the United States accused Francis of knowing about the allegations but doing nothing, in a scathing 11-page letter last month that called for Francis to resign. McCarrick has maintained his innocence. 

The recent Vatican announcement comes as a surprise since Francis has refused to respond to the claims outlined in the Aug. 22 letter by former apostolic nuncio Carlo Maria Viganò.

DiNardo, in his previous statement, outlined the assembly’s plans to resolve the “moral catastrophe,” which he said must involve the Vatican. His first goal is to start an investigation into questions about McCarrick’s misconduct. The second is to open a new and confidential channel for reporting complaints against bishops, while the third is to advocate for an effective resolution to combat future complaints.

He said he would “urge further concrete steps” based on the three goals at a future meeting with the Holy See.

“The overarching goal in all of this is stronger protections against predators in the Church and anyone who would conceal them, protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability,” DiNardo said. It comes after critics have called for legal reform over clergy-abuse allegations, with one advocating for the repeal of the statute of limitations.

Church’s ‘Own 9/11’

Meanwhile, a top Vatican official said on Sept. 11 that the abuse scandal has reached such proportions that he called it the church’s “own 9/11.”

Archbishop Georg Ganswein made the remarks at a book presentation, adding that he wasn’t comparing the scandal to the thousands of people killed in the 2o01 U.S. terror attacks. Ganswein, who was the personal secretary to retired Pope Benedict XVI, is currently the prefect of the papal household. He said that the church’s “catastrophe” has gone on for many years.

“Today, even the Catholic Church looks full of confusion at its own 9/11, at its own Sept. 11, even though this catastrophe isn’t associated with a single date but rather at so many days and years, and innumerable victims,” he said.

He commented on the recent Pennsylvania report, asking, “How many souls have been irreparably and mortally wounded by priests of the Catholic Church?”

Ganswein said it “gives us a message (that is) even more terrible than if there had been news that all the churches in Pennsylvania had suddenly collapsed together.”

The former archbishop said the recent reports reminded him “as if it were yesterday” when he accompanied former Pope Benedict to New York on April 16, 2008. Benedict made the trip to give a speech to the nation’s bishops at the time.

He said that during one part of the talk about the abuse of minors, Pope Benedict “tried poignantly to shake the bishops assembled from all over the United States.”

Ganswein recalled Benedict speaking about the “deep shame” caused by the scandals at the time. The talk was “evidently in vain, as we see today.”

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