Pope orders investigation of bishop as s*xual misconduct looms

Pope Francis joins his hands during the Urbi et Orbi Christmas' day blessing from the main balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Monday Dec. 25 2017. (AP

Pope Francis joins his hands during the Urbi et Orbi Christmas' day blessing from the main balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Monday Dec. 25 2017. (AP

The McCarrick scandal and a Pennsylvania grand jury's allegations that some 300 priests had abused more than 1,000 children since the 1940s have left the credibility of USA church leaders in tatters.

The sex abuse crisis engulfing the Pope has escalated after he was forced to investigate a U.S. bishop accused of molestation and a report said that there were thousands of victims of predatory priests in Germany.

In a letter sent to priests in his diocese, Cardinal Wuerl wrote: "Our discernment here, I believe, has indicated the way forward to bring healing and a new beginning at the service of this church".

Police on Tuesday arrested a priest in DiNardo's Texas diocese following allegations he abused a male high school student between 1998 and 2001.

The petition asked the pope to remove Wuerl from his position for allegedly covering up the sexual abuse of minors and paying off clergy to lie about their stories while serving as bishop of Pittsburgh.

Although he did not mention recent sex abuse cover-up allegations directly, the speech seemed to reference the Theodore McCarrick scandal from earlier this year.

Francis' papacy has been jolted by accusations he rehabilitated a top American cardinal from sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict XVI for having molested and harassed adult seminarians. Many have suggested Wuerl must have known about the allegations, and intentionally did not act.

The Vatican hasn't responded to the accusations, but presumably the "clarifications" it has promised will come sometime after Francis meets with the top U.S. church leadership this week.

Pope Francis is calling the presidents of every Catholic bishops' conference in the world to Rome Feb. 21-24 to discuss the prevention of the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

However, the wave of sex abuse claims involving Catholic Church clergy in the USA continues.

The same day also saw the announcement that the US delegation would be headed by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and will also include Francis' top sex abuse adviser, Cardinal Sean O'Malley.

Also involved are two officials from the conference, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez and Monsignor Brian Bransfield.

The calling of the summit comes just weeks after Pope Francis' visit to Ireland - which was protested by child protection protesters - and in the wake of fresh sexual abuse scandals in a number of countries including the United States, Australia and Chile.

Bransfield, the West Virginia bishop resigned Thursday and Pope Francis didn't waste time to accept his resignation and directed another bishop to investigate the allegation against him.

Neither the Vatican nor the Archdiocese of Baltimore gave any details of the specific allegations against Bransfield.

Vigano, a former Vatican envoy to Washington, also called on the Pope to step down.