Pope calls sum­mit on sex abuse pre­ven­tion

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Doug Stan­glin and Jane Onyanga-Omara

Pope Fran­cis, sig­nal­ing the Catholic Church’s in­abil­ity to defuse long-run­ning clergy sex scan­dals, on Wed­nes­day sum­moned the pres­i­dents of Catholic bish­ops con­fer­ences world­wide to the Vat­i­can in Fe­bru­ary to dis­cuss pro­tect­ing chil­dren and pre­vent­ing sex­ual abuse by priests.

The meet­ing, on Feb. 21-24, is be­lieved to be the first of its kind and comes amid grow­ing crit­i­cism over the pope’s han­dling of sex-abuse cases dat­ing back decades.

In ad­di­tion, Pope Fran­cis will meet Thurs­day with a group of U.S. church fig­ures led by Car­di­nal Daniel DiNardo, head of the U.S. Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bish­ops. The meet­ing will in­clude Fran­cis’ top sex-abuse ad­viser, Car­di­nal Sean O’Mal­ley.

DiNardo has said he wants Fran­cis to au­tho­rize a full-fledged Vat­i­can in­ves­ti­ga­tion into ex-Car­di­nal Theodore McCar­rick, who was re­moved as car­di­nal in July af­ter a cred­i­ble ac­cu­sa­tion that he groped a teenager. McCar­rick, 88, served as Arch­bishop of Wash­ing­ton from 2001 to 2006.

The bur­geon­ing scan­dals have in­creas­ingly raised ques­tions about the pope’s per­sonal han­dling of the is­sue.

Ear­lier this year, af­ter re­peat­edly discrediting vic­tims of a no­to­ri­ous Chilean preda­tor priest, the pope admit­ted to “grave er­rors in judg­ment” and took steps to make amends, sanc­tion guilty bish­ops and re­make the Chilean epis­co­pacy.

More re­cently, a re­tired Vat­i­can am­bas­sador al­leged that Pope Fran­cis had re­ha­bil­i­tated McCar­rick, the dis­graced U.S. car­di­nal, from sanc­tions im­posed by Pope Bene­dict XVI for hav­ing mo­lested and ha­rassed adult sem­i­nar­i­ans.

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