Pope orders investigation into U.S. bishop

Howard TerrySep 14, 2018

Mr Bransfield's ouster was announced on the day leaders of the U.S. Catholic Church were meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican to discuss a response to other sex abuse scandals.

The meeting at the Vatican in February is believed to be the first of its kind, and signals a realisation from the highest levels of the church that clerical abuse is a global problem.

Bransfield came as the pontiff began a closed-door meeting in his private study with four U.S. bishops and cardinals to address the church's wave of sexual abuse crises, including a cover-up scandal that even implicated the pope himself.

Last month, a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed more than 1,000 children were sexually abused by more than 300 clergy members.

The crisis has drawn in the Pope following accusations by a retired Vatican official that Francis rehabilitated the former Archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, after McCarrick was sanctioned for sexually abusive behaviour with seminarians.

In a separate development, an open letter published on Catholic Women's Forum, which calls on the Pope to respond to allegations by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò surrounding the sexual abuse scandal, has gained more than 44,000 signatures in just under two weeks.

The head of the USA bishops conference, Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, had requested the papal audience last month following revelations that McCarrick had risen through church ranks even though the allegations of sexual misconduct were known in US and Vatican circles.

Franco Origlia via Getty Images Pope Francis arrives in St, Peter's square for his weekly audience on September 12, 2018 in Vatican City, Vatican.

Moving priests who have been accused of child sex abuse is widely seen as a way to help them avoid facing any consequences.

The summit was announced as Francis still works to recover from his botched handling of the sex abuse scandal in the Chilean church, sparked earlier this year when he repeatedly discredited victims of a notorious Chilean predator priest.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) commented Thursday on the sexual abuse and cover-up scandal that is rocking the Catholic church.

As the moment the United States cardinals arrived for their meeting with Francis in the Vatican's apostolic palace, the Holy See announced the Pope had ordered Archbishop of Baltimore, William E. Lori, to investigate harassment allegations against West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield.

DiNardo has said that he wants the pope to approve a full investigation of the McCarrick case, and that reports of a cover-up by the Vatican and the pope himself need to be answered.

In June, McCarrick was removed from public ministry because of a decades-old allegation of sexual abuse. Lori will also take over the diocese of Charleston-Wheeling.

In Germany on Wednesday, the conclusions of a study commissioned by the German Bishops' Conference were leaked to the press.

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