Pope Francis has called a meeting of Catholic bishops next year in Rome to address sexual abuse by priests. The greatest crisis of Francis’ papacy was kicked off by revelations of allegations that the influential Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had abused children. The scandal was escalated further when Carlo Maria Viganò, the former Vatican ambassador to the United States and a conservative opponent of Francis, wrote a letter in which he alleged that Francis’ still-living predecessor, Benedict XVI, had placed sanctions on McCarrick that Francis then lifted.
Francis has since been evasive on whether Viagno’s charges were true, false, or a mixture of both, never directly addressing the claims and at one point even challenging journalists to find out for themselves. The crisis has continued to expand, with a grand jury report in Pennsylvania detailing more than 1,000 credible accusations of sexual abuse committed by more than 300 priests and a new investigation of New York’s dioceses by the state attorney general.
McCarrick’s predecessor as archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, plans to discuss his resignation with Francis, the New York Times reported. Wuerl was archbishop of Pittsburgh when some of the abuse detailed in the grand jury report occurred and had allowed a priest accused of abuse to resign and receive a pension, while also working to push out some accused priests.
“The Holy Father, after hearing the Council of Cardinals, convened a meeting with the presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of all the world to speak about the prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults,” Paloma García Ovejero, a Vatican press official, said in a briefing Wednesday. The College of Cardinals said the meetings would happen in February and that during their just-concluded meeting with Francis, the council “reflected extensively together with the Holy Father on the theme of abuse.”