U.S. bishop quits as Francis launches fresh abuse probe

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Baltimore Bishop William Lori said in a statement that Francis had instructed him to "conduct an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of adults against Bishop Bransfield".

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 US delegation. "It is oppressive and shameful for us", Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier said in a statement Wednesday.

According to a new poll published by the U.S. news channel CNN on Wednesday, Pope Francis's popularity has nosedived in the United States recently.

"He listened very deeply from the heart", said a statement released after the meeting September 13. 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.

Those allegations against Bransfield are not included the statement.

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

The private encounter came a day after Pope Francis summoned the president of every bishops' conference in the world to a meeting at the Vatican on the theme of "the protection of minors".

"11 letter to priests", reads a tweet from the Archdiocese of Washington, "Cardinal Wuerl shared that the best way to serve the Church as it moves into the future will be to meet soon with Pope Francis to request that he accept his resignation that was submitted three years ago". A church report there found more than 1,600 priests and clerics had abused more than 3,600 minors in a almost 70-year period.

As sexual abuse scandals continue to plague the Catholic church, Pope Francis has now taken an unprecedented step towards doing something about it.

In an embarrassing coincidence, Bishop Bransfield's cousin, Father Brian Bransfield, was among those meeting the Pope.

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There was no immediate indication from the Vatican as to whether the Pope would authorise a visitation into the McCarrick affair, although there is speculation that a lay-led board will be set up to investigate claims made against bishops.

An earlier comprehensive investigation into clergy sex abuse resulted in the 2004 John Jay report, which found that over 80 percent of abuse was committed against male victims, which has been used to underscore the predominantly homosexual nature of the clerical abuse crisis.

A study commissioned by the German bishops' conference reports the sexual abuse of thousands of children by priests and religious in that country over a period of 70 years.

An exhaustive, almost 900-page grand jury investigation into sexual abuse by Pennsylvania priests mentions Wuerl over 200 times.

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