US Bishops Had Plan to Curb Sex Abuse. Rome Ordered Them To Delay Its Rollout

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As Catholic bishops prepared to vote on new accountability standards regarding sexual abuse, the Vatican said to wait.

As Roman Catholic bishops convened in Maryland for their twice-yearly conference on Monday, the group was surprised to learn that a directive from the Vatican would put their most urgent matter of business on hold,the Boston Globe reported: “The Vatican suddenly had asked them not to vote on proposals to hold them more accountable for sexual misconduct.”

This meeting was the bishops’ first since a spate of new sexual abuse allegations became public over the summer, when an investigation in Pennsylvania made international headlines.

> “Brothers, I am sure you have concerns about this latest development,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the gathering immediately after they had finished opening prayers in a waterfront ballroom.

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> DiNardo said he had been told of the directive only Sunday night, hours before the twice-yearly conference was scheduled to convene. The Vatican asked that the American bishops delay their vote until after a global meeting of church leaders could discuss the crisis in Rome in February.

The group of nearly 200 bishops had anticipated a Tuesday vote on new standards for bishop accountability, the Globe said, along with forming a special commission to handle complaints against bishops who violate the standards.

After establishing standards in 2002 regarding sexual abuse and priests, the bishops exempted themselves.

The new standards up for a vote this week would have changed that.

> Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, the pope’s closest adviser on the sexual-abuse crisis, told the Globe he did not hear about the Vatican’s request until 7:30 a.m. Monday.

O’Malley told the Globe that this delay will give bishops a chance “to study these proposals to refine them,” adding that “this is an opportunity for us to be able to have a major influence on what is presented to the Bishops Conference and to the whole world in February.”

A recent investigation by the Globe and The Philadelphia Inquirer revealed that over 130 bishops have been accused of failing to adequately respond to sexual abuse allegations during their careers — nearly a third of them still living.

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