Cardinal Wuerl to discuss possible resignation with Pope Francis

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

Francis removed McCarrick as a cardinal in July following a credible accusation that he groped a teenage altar boy in the 1970s.

The Vatican says Pope Francis will meet Thursday with the head of the USA bishops conference and other top US church officials over the sex abuse and cover-up scandal roiling the Catholic Church.

Wuerl had served as Bishop of the Pittsburgh Diocese for 18 years, and, his name was mentioned prominently in the grand jury report for allegedly not doing enough to remove predator priests from ministry...while noting at the same time, that Wuerl did, at times, refuse to return priests to parishes, after they were accused of sexual abuse.

Gaenswein said the recent news of the sexual abuse and its victims from the USA were "even more bad than the sudden collapse of all the churches of Pennsylvania together with the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington", according to the AP.

After weeks of silence and mounting pressure from the laity, the Vatican now says it will issue a response to allegations made by Archbishop Maria Viganò, accusing Pope Francis and several high-ranking prelates of participating in a coverup for the sexually abusive then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The Vatican has known since at least 2000 that the archbishop would habitually invite seminary students to his New Jersey beach house and into his bed.

Gaenswein recalled that during a 2008 trip to the U.S., Benedict spoke from the National Shrine to denounce the "profound shame" and pain that abuse had caused the Catholic community.

"Neither the lament of the Holy Father nor the formal assurances and commitments pledged by a large part of the hierarchy has been able to contain the evil", he said.

But the document - an unprecedented attack on the papacy from inside the Vatican - was coloured by claims about "homosexual networks" inside the Church and included a slew of accusations against Francis' allies. It is entirely up to Francis whether Wuerl continues in his job or retires.

The missing counselors are Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya; Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz Ossa, the Archbishop Emeritus of Santiago whose mishandling of abuse allegations is now under scrutiny; and Cardinal George Pell, who is on trial in his native Australia for the alleged sexual abuse of male minors.

"In these times, it seems like the "Great Accuser" has been unchained and has it in for bishops", he said.

Bishops, he said, should be men of prayer, and should know they were chosen by God and keep close to their flock.

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