The meeting yesterday between Pope Francis and the leaders of the US bishops’ conference on the clergy sexual abuse scandal resulted in a “lengthy, fruitful and good exchange”, the American prelates said. Source: NCR Online.
Conference president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said in a statement that he and the three others taking part in the encounter told the pontiff how the Church in the US had been “lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse,” and that the Pope “listened very deeply from the heart.”
Cardinal DiNardo met with the Pope alongside Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, the conference vice president; Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, head of the papal commission on clergy abuse; and Msgr Brian Bransfield, the conference’s general secretary.
The Vatican did not release any information about the encounter, aside from official photos and a brief video of its beginning. The statement from the US bishops came about four hours after its scheduled start at noon-time in Rome.
Cardinal DiNardo first requested the encounter with Francis las month, two days after the August 14 release of a grand jury report in Pennsylvania revealed that more than 300 priests had been accused of committing sexual assault in six dioceses in the state over seven decades.
Release of that report came shortly after Archbishop Theodore McCarrick renounced his place in the College of Cardinals in the wake of revelations that he sexually harassed or abused several young men during his rise to become one of the US Church’s most senior prelates.
In a striking concurrence, as the meeting began at midday, the Vatican announced in its daily bulletin that the Pope had accepted the resignation of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, Bishop Michael Bransfield, and appointed Baltimore Archbishop William Lori as the diocese’s apostolic administrator.
Although Bishop Bransfield, a relative of Msgr Brian Bransfield, had reached the traditional retirement age of 75 on September 8, Archbishop Lori said in a statement that he had been asked “to conduct an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of adults against Bishop Bransfield.”
It is unknown what specific allegations Archbishop Lori has been asked to investigate, but Bishop Bransfield was the subject of scrutiny in 2012 when a witness in a Pennsylvania trial of two priests alleged hearing someone else claim that Bishop Bransfield had abused a teenage boy as a priest in Philadelphia years ago.
Bishop Bransfield denied the claim at the time.