Bishop Michael Bransfield resigns; sexual harassment investigation launched

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The private meeting held in the tiny state's Apostolic Palace included the three top officials from the body that runs the U.S. Catholic Church, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: Cardinal Daniel Di Nardo, the president, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, deputy president, and Monsignor Brian Bransfield, secretary general.

The Feb. 21-24 meeting of the presidents of the more than 100 bishops conferences is believed to be the first of its kind, and signals a realization at the highest levels of the church that clergy sex abuse is a global problem and not restricted to the Anglo-Saxon world, as many church leaders have long tried to insist.

In a separate development, an open letter published on Catholic Women's Forum, which calls on the Pope to respond to allegations by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò surrounding the sexual abuse scandal, has gained more than 44,000 signatures in just under two weeks.

That outrage has been compounded by the revelations of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, detailing the abuse of more than 1,000 children by some 300 priests over 70 years, while bishops covered up for them.

Pope Francis removed McCarrick as a cardinal in July, but the Vatican's former US ambassador, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, has called for the pope step down in the wake of his failure to act against McCarrick until recently.

After news broke of the investigation, several former seminarians and priests came forward to report that they, too, had been abused or harassed by McCarrick as adults. And just yesterday in Germany, media reported that a church-commissioned study revealed some 1,700 clerics abused almost 4,000 minors over a period of 7 years. As a fruit of our discernment I intend, in the very near future, to go to Rome to meet with our Holy Father about the resignation I presented almost three years ago, November 12, 2015.

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of a USA bishop Thursday and authorized an investigation into allegations he sexually harassed adults, adding awkward drama to an audience with US church leaders over the abuse and cover-up scandal roiling the Catholic Church.

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"The pope is well informed", the cardinal said, "and he's also very, very attentive to what has happened to abuse victims in the church in the United States".

Cardinal Wuerl was named in the report and accused of protecting those priests while he was a bishop in Pittsburgh.

"The report does not give the full picture, and is not fully independent", German criminologist Christian Pfeiffer told The New York Times. An archbishop has accused Francis himself of turning a blind eye to the alleged misdeeds of McCarrick, who has resigned from the College of Cardinals.

The Vatican is grappling with claims that the leader of the Catholic Church helped cover up an American cardinal's misconduct.

Pope Francis has summoned top Catholic officials to discuss the escalating sexual abuse scandal that has plagued the church.

A US bishop accused of molesting adults resigned on Thursday, in the latest sex abuse scandal to rock the Catholic Church. McCarrick was removed as a cardinal in July after a credible accusation he groped a teenager.

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