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VATICAN CITY, Italy, September 11, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis will meet with USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and other U.S. prelates to discuss the ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick aspect of the Church’s sex abuse crisis Thursday, the Vatican has announced.

DiNardo made the request for a papal audience in August. 

Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the head of Pope Francis’ papal Commission for the Protection of Minors, and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), will join the Pope and DiNardo Thursday at noon, according to a Tuesday bulletin from the Holy See Press Office.

The U.S. Bishops’ Secretary General Monsignor J. Brian Bransfield will be present for the meeting as well.

The press release came in response to inquiries from journalists after rumors of a meeting had been reported earlier Tuesday.

DiNardo asked for a papal audience in August amid significant controversy following both the August 14 release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing seven decades of clerical sex abuse and associated cover-up in six dioceses there and revelations in June of credible allegations McCarrick abused a minor years ago. 

“The first goal is a full investigation of questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick,” DiNardo said of the USCCB's planned response to the sex abuse crisis on August 16. “These answers are necessary to prevent a recurrence, and so help to protect minors, seminarians, and others who are vulnerable in the future. We will therefore invite the Vatican to conduct an Apostolic Visitation to address these questions, in concert with a group of predominantly lay people identified for their expertise by members of the National Review Board and empowered to act.”

A bombshell testimony from former papal nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano released August 25 alleges Pope Francis and other senior Churchmen knew of McCarrick’s sexual abuse and let it pass. After that testimony was released, DiNardo said on August 27, “I am eager for an audience with the Holy Father to earn his support for our plan of action,” said DiNardo. “That plan includes more detailed proposals to: seek out these answers, make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier, and improve procedures for resolving complaints against bishops.”

The sexual abuse allegations against McCarrick, who enjoyed prominence in the Church into his retirement, led to subsequent charges of rampant abuse against him and opened the door to abuse charges against other prelates – jolting the Church for much of the summer.

Shock and frustration have grown among Catholics, along with calls for an investigation of who among the Church’s leaders knew about McCarrick’s abuse of seminarians and other young men, and also who covered for now-Archbishop McCarrick, enabling his rise to cardinal. McCarrick’s abuse was apparently an “open secret” among the hierarchy and much of the media.

According to Vigano, Pope Francis even repealed sanctions placed upon McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI and made McCarrick a trusted advisor. According to Vigano, the now-disgraced McCarrick had a hand in the elevation of numerous current cardinals, including Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey and Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago.

In addition to an investigation, some have called for Pope Francis to resign in the wake of the Vigano charges.

The papal household received the request for a papal audience from DiNardo on August 20, according to a member of the USCCB Executive Committee, an EWTN radio producer tweeted late last week, though no response had been released until the Vatican bulletin Tuesday.

In the meantime, however, Francis has met with Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who is implicated in the Pennsylvania grand jury report. According to the grand jury report, Wuerl covered up sexual abuse as bishop of Pittsburgh and shuffled predatory priests between parishes, endangering the safety of children.

Francis met with Wuerl August 30, CNN reports, where the two reportedly discussed Wuerl’s personal situation. In addition to the Pennsylvania report, Wuerl is believed along with other Church prelates to have known about McCarrick, his predecessor in Washington D.C.

Wuerl has denied knowing specifics about the accusations against McCarrick and defends his overall record of handling abuse allegations in Pittsburgh. He faces continued calls to resign, but maintains he will not step down.

O’Malley, appointed in 2014 and reconfirmed earlier this year by Francis as head of his advisory body for safeguarding minors and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse, has apologized for his office’s handling of a 2015 letter exposing McCarrick’s abuse. O’Malley says he did not personally see the letter until the media reported on it in July.

After his office received the damning letter, O’Malley fundraised and travelled with McCarrick.

Both O’Malley and Wuerl cancelled their respective appearances at the Vatican-presented World Meeting of Families in Dublin last month.

LifeSiteNews is following this breaking story and will post updates as they become available.