Pope calls summit on sex abuse prevention
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.