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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Scandal Prompts Pope to Call In U.S. Clergy

ROME -- Pope John Paul II has summoned American cardinals to the Vatican for an extraordinary meeting to talk about sex-abuse scandals in the U.S. church.

The talks will take place early next week, a senior Vatican official said Monday. The official said the cardinals would meet with some Vatican officials as well as the pope.

A spokesman for the Baltimore archdiocese said the meeting was scheduled for April 23-24.

The Vatican official said only the eight American cardinals in charge of an archdiocese will be involved in next week's talks. They are Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington.

But a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, said the conference's top two officials -- Bishop Wilton Gregory, the president, and Bishop William Skylstad, the vice president -- also will attend.

Cardinals usually are summoned to Rome only when new cardinals are named or for a conclave when a pope dies. A special meeting of cardinals from just one country is extraordinary. Only one similar meeting has been held before, said the Reverend Thomas Reese, editor of the Catholic magazine "America."

In 1989, the pope summoned all the American archbishops to discuss tensions between U.S. Catholics and the Vatican over issues such as remarriage for divorced Catholics and disregard for the church ban on artificial birth control.

The Roman Catholic Church in the United States and elsewhere is under fire for its handling of a series of allegations of sex abuse by priests.

The church is accused of covering up misconduct by priests, in some cases by moving known abusers from job to job. It has already paid millions in damages and faces numerous lawsuits from victims.

John Paul has spoken only briefly of the scandals, and some critics have sharply faulted the Vatican for a lack of leadership in a time of deep crisis.

The summons comes just days after top U.S. bishops were in Rome for their semiannual talks with the 81-year-old pontiff. The sex-abuse scandals dominated the discussions.

Gregory said the pope wants to help: "He extended his hand in support to the bishops of the United States ... The Holy See has demonstrated an extraordinary openness in understanding the particular situation that we face in the United States."

Gregory said there was no discussion last week of Boston's Law, who has faced growing criticism since acknowledging he transferred a priest to another parish despite knowing of sexual-misconduct allegations against the man.