Sexual abuse: Pope Francis orders probe of American bishop Bransfield

Sexual abuse: Pope Francis orders probe of American bishop Bransfield

Pope Francis will meet leaders of the US Catholic Church at the Vatican today, after a high profile accusation that the pontiff covered up sexual abuse allegations against an American cardinal.

Earlier this month, Wuerl acknowledged the turmoil surrounding his leadership - and the Catholic Church's leadership - amid a slew of multistate abuse-related investigations.

The US church was also rocked by a grand jury report that said 300 priests in Pennsylvania had abused more than 1,000 children since the 1940s.

The meeting had been requested by Cardinal Di Nardo following the damaging release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report in July that, since 1947, hundreds of priests in the state sexually abused more than 1,000 children - and the news that a now-demoted cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, rose through the ranks within the church, despite officials in the Vatican and in the USA knowing about sexual allegations against him dating back to 2000.

The revelation comes amid a flurry of scandals that began June 20 with the announcement that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was accused of groping an altar boy in the 1970s.

"Criminal prosecutions, governmental investigations and journalistic exposes - stemming from fearless victims and church whistleblowers - are the best way to protect kids, expose wrongdoers and end coverups", Clohessy said.

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Archbishop Jose Gomez (left) and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo arrive at the Perugino Gate to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday to discuss the sex abuse crisis within the church.

DiNardo, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, requested the meeting with Pope Francis as the Catholic Church in the United States faces clergy sex abuse scandals on several fronts. McCarrick was a co-consecrator when Bishop Bransfield was ordained a bishop in 2005 and the two were active in the Papal Foundation, the big USA fundraising organization that McCarrick co-founded and which has funneled millions of dollars to the Vatican over the years. Many cases were not brought to justice, and sometimes abuse suspects - primarily priests - were moved to other dioceses without new congregations being informed about the pastor's past, they said.

Those allegations against Bransfield are not included the statement.

The pope initially said he would not say a "single word" on the accusations and refused to even answer a question about when he first knew of McCarrick's behavior. An archbishop has accused Francis himself of turning a blind eye to the alleged misdeeds of McCarrick, who has resigned from the College of Cardinals.

The delegation of US bishops announced no plans to speak to the media after their audience.

Francis appointed Baltimore Bishop William Lori to take over Bransfield's Wheeling-Charleston diocese temporarily.

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