Pope receives US Church leaders to discuss clerical sex abuse crisis

Pope Francis joins his hands during the Urbi et Orbi Christmas' day blessing from the main balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Monday Dec. 25 2017. (AP

Pope Francis joins his hands during the Urbi et Orbi Christmas' day blessing from the main balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Monday Dec. 25 2017. (AP

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.

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. His statement said the group told Francis the US church was "lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse".

Although Francis initially has refused to comment directly about Vigano's claims, but almost every day over the past two weeks his homily at morning Mass has seemed related to the scandal.

A top Vatican official earlier this week acknowledged that some allegations against McCarrick were brought to the Vatican's attention as early as 2000.

While Francis has often talked about sexual crimes as an abuse of power, some conservatives say the Pope has downplayed the role of homosexuality among priests while instead signalling a slightly more inclusive stance about gays within the church.

Francis has, however, responded to the overall scandal with a series of initiatives aimed at trying to convince the faithful that he "gets it" and is prepared to take measures to put an end to what he has called the "culture of cover-up" in the church.

On Tuesday, he drew Satan into the fray, suggesting that the devil was behind Vigano's revelations. Two dioceses also had announced allegations of inappropriate contact between Archbishop McCarrick and seminarians, resulting in settlements totaling more than $100,000. "True, we are all sinners, we bishops", he added.

McCarrick is accused of molesting an altar boy and having seminary students sleep in his bed with him. "He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people".

Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, private secretary to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, on Tuesday described sexual abuse against minors by clergy as the Church's "own 9/11".

The uproar over McCarrick's conduct and the release last month of a shocking Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sex abuse together amount to the most serious crisis facing the Vatican in years.

"As a fruit of our discernment, I intend in the very near future, to go to Rome to meet with our Holy Father about the resignation I presented to him almost three years ago, November 12, 2015", the letter says.

"Neither the lament of the Holy Father nor the formal assurances and commitments pledged by a large part of the hierarchy has been able to contain the evil", he said.

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