3/29/2018 - Pope Francis speaks during the Holy Chrism Mass on Maundy Thursday at St Peter's basilica in Vatican.

(Photo by PA Images/Sipa USA)

Pope Francis Summons Bishops To Vatican To Discuss Sex Abuse

September 12, 2018 - 9:35 am

VATICAN CITY (WCBS 880/AP) -- Pope Francis is calling the presidents of every bishop conference around the world to a February summit to discuss clergy sex abuse and protecting children.

The decision was announced Wednesday morning and is evidence that Francis realizes the scandal is global and that inaction threatens to undermine his legacy.

The Feb. 21-24 meeting at the Vatican is believed to be the first of its kind.

Earlier this year, Francis faced what was then the worst crisis of his papacy when he repeatedly discredited victims of a notorious Chilean predator priest. He eventually admitted to "grave errors in judgment" and has taken steps to make amends, sanction guilty bishops and remake the Chilean episcopacy.

More recently, Francis' 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.

The Vatican hasn't responded to the accusations by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, but has promised "clarifications" that presumably will come sometime after Francis' meeting Thursday with the U.S. delegation.

On Thursday, the pope is expected to meet with Cardinal Daniel Di Nardo, the president of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops and others.

Di Nardo has said that he would like to discuss the moral catastrophe of sexual abuse with Francis, and call for a Vatican investigation into questions surrounding former Washington, D.C. Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

McCarrick, 88, resigned July 28, after the church found he was credibly accused of sexually abusing a teenage boy in the 1970’s.

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

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.

Di Nardo has also suggested opening “new and confidential channels” for reporting complains about bishops’ misconduct and advocated for more effective ways to resolve future complaints.