Pope turns down request by U.S. bishops for apostolic visitation

USCCB will now consider proposal for lay-led investigation of four dioceses where former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick served: New York, Metuchen, Newark, and Washington, DC

Pope Francis greets Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, during a meeting with officials of the conference at the Vatican Sept. 13. (Credit: CNS)

On the one month anniversary of explosive charges against Pope Francis’ handling of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s history of abuse, it has become clear that the U.S. bishops’ request for a Vatican-led investigation will not move forward, leading the prelates to ponder what comes next.

Last month, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò alleged in an 11-page “testimonial” that Pope Francis was not only aware of McCarrick’s history of abuse, but that Francis had removed sanctions imposed on McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI. This led to the head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, to double down on his request to meet with Pope Francis in hopes of a Vatican-led investigation into how McCarrick climbed the ranks of leadership within the Church.

On September 13, DiNardo, along with USCCB vice-president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston and president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and Monsignor Brian Bransfield, general secretary of the conference, were granted a much-anticipated audience with Pope Francis.

Even though, as he told Crux, O’Malley was there mostly as an “observer,” he’s the one who handed the pontiff the letter from American bishops requesting the meeting.

Following that meeting, the USCCB released a statement in which they said they had shared with Francis “how the Body of Christ is lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse,” and termed it a “lengthy, fruitful, and good exchange.”

The specifics of what happened inside that meeting, however, remained sketchy. Yet during interviews with more than two-dozen bishops in Rome and the United States, along with more than a dozen high-ranking Vatican officials and USCCB personnel, a clearer picture has emerged as to what the next steps will be as the American bishops seek to find answers, to right past wrongs, and to set a new course of action in Church policy toward protecting minors and vulnerable adults.

In the Room Where it Happened

Going into the meeting with Francis, the desired outcome was an official Vatican investigation into McCarrick known as an “apostolic visitation.” DiNardo announced that during a news conference after release of a statement from the USCCB on Aug. 16.

Several sources have confirmed that the pontiff made a “counter-offer,” suggesting instead that the bishops suspend their upcoming November meeting in favor of a week-long Ignatian-style retreat. At the moment, the USCCB administrative committee is inclined to let the plans for its fall assembly stand, adding only a one-day retreat on Sunday and a possible lengthier retreat at a date yet to be determined.

With no apostolic visitation in sight, Crux has learned that the USCCB has opted for an investigation led primarily by lay individuals, in cooperation with the U.S. bishops, that will focus on the four dioceses in which McCarrick served: New York; Metuchen, New Jersey; Newark; and Washington, D.C.

Such an investigation, however, will be limited to the voluntary cooperation of the four dioceses involved as the USCCB does not possess canonical authority to mandate compliance.

Meanwhile, on September 10, the Vatican announced that it would soon release “necessary clarifications” on McCarrick. Sources have indicated that the process of collecting information on the McCarrick case is being led by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was part of the entourage of Pope Francis’ Sept. 22-25 visit to the Baltics.

Full story at Crux.


  1. Pope turns down last chance to save swiftly eroding papacy.after emergency resolution procedures go into effect, new leadership will be chosen and solidly in place by mid 2019.

  2. Angry and Angrier Bob says

    He doesn’t want an investigation because he doesn’t want the gay truth to be exposed. This is not going to go well for the hierarchy with the laity.

  3. Archbishop Vigano just released a new blockbuster letter doubling down on his charges against the pope and other clerics. He calls out one cardinal in particular to release the documentary evidence he has that would incriminate so many prelates regarding the cover up of McCarrick.

  4. Tony de New York says


  5. St. Christopher says

    Hahaha — Francis will never agree to lead anything that can lead back to him. Never. He is a dictator and dictators (and felons) do not consciously do this. And, you already have evidence of the Pope’s (alleged) wrongdoing, from the prior Papal Nuncio Vigano. Everything that we have seen leads to one central theme: an institution (possibly criminal) that is administered to foster, enjoy, and protect homosexual lifestyles by its leadership.

    The Pope’s position is facially ridiculous. Time to ignore him and do it thoroughly by laity.

  6. If the lay investigation is to have credibility, they need authority to compel production of documents and witnesses. Yes, there should be legal rules. If the Bishops of the four cited dioceses ‘stonewall’ the process, that will only drive the collective credibility of the USCCB closer to zero than it already is.

  7. This isn’t surprising at all. Anyone with the IQ of a flea knows why the pope would refuse such a request.

    Unfortunately (for him and fortunately for faithful Catholics) forces bigger than an apostolic visitation team are slowly unraveling the shameful mess so many fake Catholic bishops have perpetrated upon us for so long.

  8. The bishops look like the Keystone Cops and the Three Stooges.

  9. I think the Keystone Cops and the Three Stooges hold more credibility than most of the USCCB!

  10. The Bishops (and their hand-picked lay people) will; NEVER properly investigate themselves.

    What have we-in-the-pews observed for at least the last 40 years?—-meaningless sermons, almost nothing on matters of morality and sin, and lots of politicized sermons on Democratic Party themes like immigration. And of course, we hear very tepid sermons about the killing of unborn babies—once a year in October.

    The bishops in particular have been very preoccupied with their perversions.

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