ROME — After a Vatican announcement Saturday that Pope Francis has ordered a “thorough study” of sex abuse allegations against ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and his rise to power, a senior Vatican official has confirmed that a delegation from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will meet Francis on Monday.
The meeting, however, was scheduled months ahead of yesterday’s announcement as a part of an annual trip to Rome by USCCB leadership, in which they typically meet the pope and other senior Vatican officials.
Speaking to Crux, the senior Vatican official insisted that the meeting was scheduled well before last month’s meeting between the pope and USCCB delegation in which they requested the pope to approve an Apostolic Visitation, meaning a Vatican investigation, to get to the bottom of the McCarrick case.
On hand for that occasion were President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo; Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the USCCB; Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston in his role as president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; and Monsignor Brian Bransfield, secretary-general of the USCCB.
Both DiNardo and Gomez are already in Rome as elected delegates to the ongoing Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment. The meeting tomorrow will feature DiNardo, Gomez and Bransfield, along with another USCCB official. (O’Malley will not be on hand, as he doesn’t hold an official role in the bishops’ conference.)
While the pope turned down the August request for an apostolic visitation, the letter on Saturday from the Holy See Press Office indicates that the Vatican has launched its own internal review of its files on McCarrick, whom Francis removed from the College of Cardinals this summer following revelations that he serially abused seminarians and, at least in one case, a minor.
On Saturday, the Holy See Press Office announced a “thorough study of the entire documentation present in the archives of the dicasteries and offices of the Holy See” in order to ascertain “all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively,” related to McCarrick.
“The Holy Father Pope Francis renews his pressing invitation to unite forces to fight against the grave scourge of abuse within and beyond the Church, and to prevent such crimes from being committed in the future to the harm of the most innocent and most vulnerable in society,” Saturday’s statement said.
Also on Sunday, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, released a public letter charging that an ex-papal envoy in the U.S. who called on Francis to resign for allegedly covering up the truth about McCarrick, is guilty of “blasphemy” and a “political frame-job,” suggesting his accusations are “devoid of a real foundation.”