Pope Francis to Meet With US Catholic Leaders After Saying Satan Is Attacking Bishops Amid Sex Abuse

Pope Francis talks as he leads the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican.
Pope Francis talks as he leads the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican. | (Photo: Reuters)

Pope Francis will meet at the Vatican with U.S. Catholic Church leaders Thursday in response to clergy sex abuse scandals just days after saying that Satan, the "Great Accuser," is attacking bishops to "scandalize the people."

Last month, the Church was rocked by a 1,300-page Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing the abuses committed by 301 priests against about 1,000 children and the church's involvement in covering up the crimes.

A Vatican spokesman confirmed to multiple news outlets that a meeting will take place on Thursday at the Apostolic Palace between the pontiff and U.S. church officials.

Those expected to attend include Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, Massachusetts, an advisor to the pope on sex abuse issues.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington, who some have accused of covering up clergy abuse, will meet with Francis separately in the near future and is expected to offer his resignation.

"I intend, in the very near future, to go to Rome to meet with our Holy Father about the resignation I presented nearly three years ago, November 12, 2015," stated Cardinal Wuerl in a letter sent to priests on Tuesday, as quoted by the Catholic News Agency.

Cardinal Wuerl has been accused of covering up former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's alleged acts of sexual abuse against young seminarians. There are also questions about how much Wuerl knew about the abuse going on in the Diocese of Pittsburgh when he served there.

The meeting comes after Francis delivered a homily on Tuesday morning arguing that Satan, or the "Great Accuser," is currently "attacking bishops."

"He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people. The 'Great Accuser,' as he himself says to God in the first chapter of the book of Job, 'roams the earth looking for someone to accuse,'"  the pope said, according to an official report in Vatican news.

"A bishop's strength against the 'Great Accuser' is prayer, that of Jesus and his own, and the humility of being chosen and remaining close to the people of God, without seeking an aristocratic life that removes this unction. Let us pray, today, for our bishops: for me, for those who are here, and for all the bishops throughout the world."

USCCB President Cardinal DiNardo explained his intention to meet with Vatican officials over the abuse scandal in a statement released last month.

The statement outlined goals that the Catholic Church leader had for dealing with the abuse allegations, including launching new, confidential channels for complaints against bishops and creating more effective resolutions of future complaints.

"The overarching goal in all of this is stronger protections against predators in the Church and anyone who would conceal them, protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability," said DiNardo.

"I have no illusions about the degree to which trust in the bishops has been damaged by these past sins and failures. It will take work to rebuild that trust. What I have outlined here is only the beginning; other steps will follow."

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