Wheeling-Charleston Bishop Resigns As Vatican OKs Investigation Into Sexual Harassment Allegations

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano says Vatican officials covered up a cardinal’s misconduct

In a statement from the German bishops" conference, Bishop Ackermann said: "I regret that the study, which has remained confidential so far, and is the result of four years of research on the subject of "sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, deacons and male religious in the area of the German bishops' conference' was published today".

More recently, Francis's papacy has been jolted by accusations from a retired Vatican ambassador that he rehabilitated a top American cardinal from sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict XVI for having molested and harassed adult seminarians.

A Vatican spokesperson said the meeting of the heads of national Catholic bishops conferences would take place February 21-24. "We shared with Pope Francis our situation in the United States - how the Body of Christ is lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse".

In an explosive 11-page letter, Archbishop Viganò, the former apostolic nuncio to the U.S., accused Pope Francis of lifting sanctions that were placed upon the former D.C. Cardinal McCarrick during Pope Benedict's reign, going so far to making him a close adviser.

Pope Francis was set to host United States bishops and cardinals on Thursday to discuss the Vatican's response to a new wave of devastating claims of sexual abuse by clergy. It was a lengthy, fruitful, and good exchange.

Vatican spokesperson Greg Burke said DiNardo and O'Malley would meet with Francis on Thursday in the Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis plans to meet with top Roman Catholic officials next year to discuss the growing number of sexual abuse cases involving Catholic clergy.

At the same time as the top US church leaders were sitting down to speak to Pope Francis today, the Vatican announced that the pope had accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia and has asked the archbishop of Baltimore to launch an investigation into allegations that the bishop had sexually harassed adults.

"In these times, it seems like the "Great Accuser" [a reference to Satan] has been unchained and is attacking bishops", Pope Francis said. He denies the allegation, which the church said it learned of in 2007.

Earlier this month, Wuerl acknowledged the turmoil surrounding his leadership - and the Catholic Church's leadership - amid a slew of multistate abuse-related investigations.

The Vatican has known since at least 2000 that McCarrick would invite seminarians to his New Jersey beach house and into his bed.

Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston spokesman Tim Bishop said Thursday he couldn't answer questions about Bransfield's whereabouts or whether he has an attorney.

Bishops, he said, should be men of prayer, and should know they were chosen by God and keep close to their flock.

McCarrick is one of the highest-ranking American leaders in the Catholic Church to be removed from ministry because of sex abuse charges.

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