Pope Francis Authorizes Investigation of West Virginia Bishop Over Sexual Harassment Claims

Theodore Mc Carrick was removed as a cardinal in July after a credible accusation he groped a teenager

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the embattled archbishop of Washington, will ask Pope Francis to accept his resignation when he travels to the Vatican in the near future, CNN reported.

Separately, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston said on its website that Mr Bransfield, 75, will be investigated over "allegations of sexual harassment of adults".

Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston spokesman Tim Bishop said Thursday he couldn't answer questions about Bransfield's whereabouts or whether he has an attorney.

Victims' advocates immediately dismissed the event as belated damage control, an action publicized hastily as allegations regarding Francis' record of handling abuse cases - and accumulated outrage among rank-and-file Catholic faithful over covered-up crimes - jeopardize his papacy.

In July, McCarrick became the first cardinal to resign in nearly 100 years after American Church officials said allegations that he had sexually abused a 16-year-old boy almost 50 years ago were credible and substantiated.

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During his meeting with Francis today, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the US Bishops' Conference, said he told the Pope that sexual abuse had "lacerated" the Church in the United States. But critics say because the church is both subject and sponsor of the report, the findings are inherently flawed.

In recent weeks, the Catholic Church, and Cardinal Wuerl in particular, have been rocked by a Pennsylvania grand-jury report on the mishandling of sex abuse charges by six of the state's dioceses and by the recent revelations of decades of serial sexual abuse and misconduct by his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

Joe Akers, a Catholic in West Viriginia, said the allegations are "a little unsettling".

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

"That's the way it is".

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Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano claimed in an 11-page statement Francis lifted unconfirmed Vatican sanctions against the disgraced McCarrick when Benedict XVI was in the papal throne.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a policy in 2002 that is regarded as the gold standard policy.

The surprise announcement was largely dismissed as a belated damage control effort by victims' advocates. 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.

The conclusions of a study commissioned by the Church in Germany were leaked to the press on Wednesday.

No details were given on what exactly was discussed at the meeting or what the US church plans to do.

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The McCarrick scandal took on crisis proportions two weeks ago after the Vatican's former United States ambassador, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, accused two dozen Vatican and USA cardinals and bishops by name of covering up for McCarrick.

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