Pope Francis Calls Unprecedented Meeting of Top Officials Over Sex Abuse Scandal

Build church unity and shun clericalism pope tells new bishops

Pope Francis is summoning leading bishops from around the world for a summit on the sex abuse crisis that threatens to engulf the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis will meet with USA cardinals and bishops Thursday to discuss the sex abuse scandal, according to the Vatican.

Other clergy sex abuse scandals have occurred in countries including Germany, Argentina, Australia, Ireland and Chile.

A shocking Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed over 1,000 instances of sexual abuse by 300 priests and cover-ups by bishops.

In recent weeks, the Catholic Church, and Cardinal Wuerl in particular, have been rocked by a Pennsylvania grand-jury report on the mishandling of sex abuse charges by six of the state's dioceses and by the recent revelations of decades of serial sexual abuse and misconduct by his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

Members of Pope Francis's global Council of Cardinals expressed "full solidarity" with him in the midst of questions about his handling of the clerical sexual abuse scandal and said the Vatican is planning a response to allegations made against him by a former nuncio.

In an explosive 11-page letter, Archbishop Vigan├▓, 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.

The Vatican's former ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, released an explosive letter on August 26, accusing top Vatican and U.S. church leaders of covering up for McCarrick for many years.

Pope Francis has convened the Presidents of all the Episcopal Conferences of the whole world for a meeting in Rome to discuss the prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

Francis has received significant criticism over his handling of abuse, including an open letter from the Catholic Women's forum that has received more than 44,000 signatures.

Amid such turmoil, a gathering of the global church leadership to discuss a specific problem - in the tradition of church synods and councils - is a good idea, but should take place sooner than February, said Christopher Bellitto, a church historian at Kean University in New Jersey.

The pope initially said he would not say a "single word" on the accusations and refused to even answer a question about when he first knew of McCarrick's behavior.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a policy in 2002 that is regarded as the gold standard policy.

Related news: