USCCB leaders meet with Pope Francis in Rome

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The Vatican said that among those meeting the pope would be the head of the USA bishops' conference, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of the Galveston-Houston area, and Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley of Boston.

St. John Paul II made him archbishop of Washington and a cardinal in 2001, presumably because Vatican officials were impressed by his fundraising prowess and considered his past homosexual activity a mere "moral lapse" and not a gross abuse of power.

In his statement August 16, Cardinal DiNardo said the USCCB Executive Committee had established three goals: "an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints".

The controversy has engulfed Cardinal O'Malley, who apologized for how his office mishandled a 2015 letter from a priest with concerns about McCarrick.

The Vatican is grappling with claims that the leader of the Catholic Church helped cover up an American cardinal's misconduct. It required accusations of abuse to be reported to police and the permanent removal from ministry of any priest found to have abused a minor.

Some of the highest ranking Catholic leaders from the US met with Pope Francis to discuss the priest sex abuse crisis that has rocked the church.

Yesterday, officials announced that the pope has taken the unprecedented step of summoning top officials of the Catholic church from about 130 countries around the world to discuss the issue at a Vatican summit in February.

The Catholic Church is facing sexual abuse scandals in the United States, Chile, Australia and Germany, among others.

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Among the four was Bransfield's cousin, Monsignor Brian Bransfield, secretary-general of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Pope also instructed Archbishop Lori to conduct an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of adults against Bishop Bransfield. Many cases were not brought to justice, and sometimes abuse suspects - primarily priests - were moved to other dioceses without new congregations being informed about the pastor's past, they said.

Pressure has been growing on the Pope in recent weeks with the church in the United States facing allegations of sexual abuse on several fronts.

While DiNardo offered no specifics about how they plan to address the abuse, he said they prayed with the pope "for God's mercy and strength as we work to heal the wounds".

While Pope Francis has refused to respond to Vigano's allegations so far, the Vatican said on Monday that he was "formulating the eventual and necessary clarifications".

Bransfield was a priest in the Philadelphia Archdiocese before being named to lead the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese in 2004.

While the cardinal did not want to discuss the specifics of the private meeting beyond a statement released by the US bishops, he did describe the encounter as "very, very fruitful".

McCarrick resigned in July over separate allegations - which U.S. Church officials said were "credible and substantiated" - that he had abused a 16-year-old boy nearly 50 years ago. He called the meeting "a lengthy, fruitful, and good exchange".

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