Pope orders inquiry into bishop as US Church leaders discuss abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Pope Francis has ordered an investigation of an American bishop accused of sexual misconduct with adults and accepted his resignation, deepening a worldwide clerical abuse scandal.

SEE ALSO: Francis calls clergy abuse summit as issue imperils papacy

The Vatican and U.S. Church officials announced the investigation on Thursday as the pope was meeting U.S. Catholic Church leaders to discuss a scandal that has shaken his papacy.

The Vatican said the pope had appointed Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore to run the Wheeling-Charleston diocese, West Virginia, until Bishop Michael J. Bransfield is replaced.

There were no details on the specific allegations against Bransfield and neither he nor his legal representatives could immediately be reached for comment.

The Catholic Church worldwide is reeling from crises involving sexual abuse of minors, deeply damaging confidence in the Church in the United States, Chile, Australia, and Ireland where the scandal has hit hardest, and elsewhere.

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Sex abuse scandal rocks Pittsburgh Diocese
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Sex abuse scandal rocks Pittsburgh Diocese
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: Father Kris Stubna speaks to a parishioner following a mass to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: Parishioners worship during a mass to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: Parishioners worship during a mass to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: Parishioners worship during a mass to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: Organist Don Fellows is reflected on a glass encasement as parishioners worship during a mass to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: Parishioners worship during a mass to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: Parishioners leave St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: Parishioners worship during a mass to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: Parishioners worship during a mass to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
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In the United States alone, the Church spent about $4 billion in compensation and other costs related to the priest sex abuse crisis between 1950 and 2015, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

The advocacy group BishopAccountability.org says Church data shows that 6,721 clerics have been "not implausibly" or "credibly" accused of sexually abusing minors in the United States between 1950 and 2016 and that there were about 18,500 victims.

In Germany, a Church study published in a magazine on Wednesday showed 1,670 clerics and priests had sexually abused 3,677 minors, mostly males, in the country between 1946 and 2014.

PAPAL ORDER

On Thursday, the archdiocese of Baltimore's website said the pope had ordered the archbishop to investigate allegations of sexual harassment of adults by Bransfield.

"My primary concern is for the care and support of the priests and people of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston at this difficult time," Lori said in a statement.

"I further pledge to conduct a thorough investigation in search of the truth into the troubling allegations against Bishop Bransfield and to work closely with the clergy, religious and lay leaders of the diocese until the appointment of a new bishop," he said.

The announcement of Bransfield's resignation came while the pope was meeting Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, and Archbishop José Horacio Gómez of Los Angeles.

In a statement afterwards, DiNardo said they told the pope of "our situation in the United States -- how the Body of Christ is lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse." He called the meeting "a lengthy, fruitful, and good exchange."

DiNardo had asked for the meeting after Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano last month accused the pope of knowing for years about sexual misconduct by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and of doing nothing about it.

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.

DEMANDING ANSWERS

McCarrick has said that he had "absolutely no recollection" of the alleged abuse of the teenager but has not commented on the other allegations against him.

DiNardo has called for the Vatican to launch an investigation, known as an "apostolic visitation," into how McCarrick could have risen steadily through the ranks of the U.S. Church although many people knew that he had engaged for years in sexual misconduct with adult male seminarians.

In the 11-page statement published on Aug. 26, Vigano, the former Vatican ambassador to Washington, launched an unprecedented broadside by a Church insider against the pope and a long list of Vatican and U.S. Church officials.

DiNardo has said Vigano's accusations "deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence." (Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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Pope arrives in Ireland
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Pope arrives in Ireland
Pope Francis is pictured as he leaves Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Pope Francis leaves Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Pope Francis smiles next to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis is welcomed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis speaks at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis is greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis presents a gift to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis speaks during his meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis is greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis signs a visitors book next to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis arrives at Dublin International Airport, at the start of his two-day visit to Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Pope Francis is greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis is greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
A monk reacts next to the officer from Ireland's Garda (Police), in Dublin, Ireland August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Pope Francis speaks in St Patricks Hall in Dublin Castle in Dublin on August 25, 2018, during his visit to Ireland to attend the 2018 World Meeting of Families. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar (R) shows the way to Pope Francis in St Patricks Hall in Dublin Castle in Dublin on August 25, 2018, during his visit to Ireland to attend the 2018 World Meeting of Families. - Pope Francis said he shared in the 'shame and pain' of the Catholic Church's 'failure' to deal with years of sexual abuse scandals as he began a historic two-day visit to Ireland on Saturday. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - AUGUST 25: Pope Francis leaves after meeting dignitaries at Dublin Castle on August 25, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. Pope Francis is the 266th Catholic Pope and current sovereign of the Vatican. His visit, the first by a Pope since John Paul II's in 1979, is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of Catholics to a series of events in Dublin and Knock. During his visit he will have private meetings with victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - AUGUST 25: Pope Francis leaves after meeting dignitaries at Dublin Castle on August 25, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. Pope Francis is the 266th Catholic Pope and current sovereign of the Vatican. His visit, the first by a Pope since John Paul II's in 1979, is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of Catholics to a series of events in Dublin and Knock. During his visit he will have private meetings with victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (L) and Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar walk into St Patricks Hall in Dublin Castle in Dublin on August 25, 2018, during his visit to Ireland to attend the 2018 World Meeting of Families. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
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