At the same time as the top USA church leaders were sitting down to speak to Pope Francis today, the Vatican announced that the pope had accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia and has asked the archbishop of Baltimore to launch an investigation into allegations that the bishop had sexually harassed adults.
Bransfield came as the pontiff began a closed-door meeting in his private study with four United States bishops and cardinals to address the church's wave of sexual abuse crises, including a cover-up scandal that even implicated the pope himself.
The Bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston Catholic diocese, Michael Bransfield, turned 75 last weekend, and as per Catholic canon law, he submitted a letter of resignation to the pope in Rome. German media reported Wednesday that a church-commissioned study detailed 3,677 abuse cases between 1946 and 2014.
McCarrick is one of the highest-ranking American leaders in the Catholic Church to be removed from ministry because of sex abuse charges.
McCarrick resigned in July over separate allegations - which U.S. Church officials said were "credible and substantiated" - that he had abused a 16-year-old boy nearly 50 years ago.
The Vatican said Francis accepted his resignation Thursday and appointed Baltimore Archbishop William Lori to take over Bransfield's Wheeling-Charleston diocese temporarily.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl was named in Philadelphia's grand jury report into sex abuse in the Catholic Church as someone who had allowed priests to continue working despite allegations of sexual assault during his time as Archbishop of Pittsburgh.
Florence lands in Myrtle Beach area, bringing rain, wind, flooding
The massive storm is larger than North Carolina and South Carolina - combined, according to South Carolina Emergency Management. The National Hurricane Center says the Neuse River near the city is recording more than 10 feet (3.05 meters) of inundation.
The pope met Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who leads the US Conference of Bishops, and Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, who advises the pope on sex abuse issues.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USA bishops' conference, asked for the meeting after Viganò last month accused the pope of knowing for years about sexual misconduct by former US cardinal Theodore McCarrick and doing nothing about it.
"Today, even the Catholic Church looks full of confusion at its own 9/11, at its own September 11, even though this catastrophe isn't associated with a single date but rather at so many days and years, and innumerable victims", he said.
Hours after Viganò's statement was published, Francis told reporters that he would "not say a word" about it because it "speaks for itself". "I further pledge to conduct a thorough investigation in search of the truth into the troubling allegations against Bishop Bransfield".
The Vatican hasn't responded to the accusations, but presumably the "clarifications" it has promised will come sometime after Francis meets with the top USA church leadership this week. He's denied all allegations.