Catholic sex abuse scandal widens after U.S. bishop quits

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In other eyebrow-raising comments on Tuesday, a top aide to both Francis and Benedict said the sex abuse scandal was such a game-changing catastrophe for the church that it amounted to its "own 9/11".

Unfortunately, the Catholic Church has been trying to identify those next steps for years now - and it seems like every day, disturbing new information comes out.

But first Pope Francis will meet with the head of the USA bishop's conference and other top United States church officials on Thursday to discuss the sex abuse scandal.

The Americans have called on Francis to launch a Vatican-led investigation into how Theodore McCarrick, a former USA cardinal, climbed the ranks, even as rumours swirled about his behaviour. Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also updated those present with the commission's ongoing efforts.

The former bishop, who was a major fundraiser for the Vatican via the Pennsylvania-based Papal Foundation, will be temporarily replaced by the archbishop of Baltimore, William E. Lori. Among the four was Bransfield's cousin, Monsignor Brian Bransfield, secretary-general of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The head of the USA bishops conference, Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, requested an audience with the pope last month after the revelation that McCarrick had risen through the ranks even though sexual misconduct allegations against him were an open secret.

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- Cardinal Donald Wuerl has sent a letter to priests saying plans to travel to Rome to meet with Pope Francis to discuss possible resignation from his position as Washington's archbishop, FOX 5 has confirmed.

"We are grateful to the Holy Father for receiving us in audience".

In August, a Pennsylvania grand jury released an explosive 900-page report detailing the abuse of more than 1,000 children by more than 300 priests going back two decades. Not long after the report came out, Wuerl's name was removed from Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry Township, Butler County.

Pope Francis summoned the presidents of the world's bishops' conferences Wednesday to a summit on preventing clergy sex abuse and protecting children, responding to the greatest crisis of his papacy with the realization that Vatican inaction on the growing global scandal now threatens his legacy. The first abuse is of power and conscience. I'd say wait until you see what they find.

A Philadelphia native who is former rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, Bishop Bransfield is 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation.

And in 2005 McCarrick was one of three bishop-consecrators who presided at Bishop Bransfield's ordination to the episcopate in 2005.