BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Catholic leaders from across the country have convened in Baltimore this week for their annual meeting.
This time, they are faced by the latest wave of sex abuse scandals that have sparked abuse investigations in D.C. and 13 states, including Maryland.
The meeting was expected to address the church’s darkest problem, until a last minute order from the Vatican.
The Catholic bishops meeting in Harbor East planned to vote on proposals to address the sex abuse crisis and prevent future crimes, but this morning, word came down from the Vatican, asking church leaders to hold off on taking any kind of action.
Sins of the past may come to the present behind closed doors on Baltimore’s waterfront.
That’s where the nation’s Catholic bishops are meeting in the center of a city touched by the church’s ever-unfolding sex abuse scandals.
But their plan to tackle the problem this week was stopped before it even started.
“We accepted, with disappointment, this particular event that took place this morning. We have not lessened in any of our resolve for actions,” said Cardinal Daniel Dinardo, Archbishop Galveston-Houston.
Monday morning the meeting opened with a request from Pope Francis to postpone a vote on possible new measures to prevent further crime.
“We are not, ourselves, happy about this,” Cardinal Dinardo added. “We are working very hard to move to action, and we’ll do it. We just have a bump in the road.”
Baltimore’s Archbishop, William Lori, is among the 300 leaders gathering to address the topic.
“The most eye opening thing, for me, has been to meet with victims, to talk to victims, to try to listen to them,” Lori said.
His predecessor, Cardinal William Keeler, came under the spotlight of scandal in August, when a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania revealed that hundreds of priests molested more than 1,000 children over decades.
The investigation named Keeler as one of the priests who knew of the widespread sex abuse and failed to report it.
The 900-page report described his role as “criminal inaction,” saying he was aware of at least two cases of abuse, and still allowed one of the accused priests to follow him to Baltimore.
The investigation stunned Charm City’s Catholics, and Archbishop Lori promised change. He made good on that promise in late September.
In a statement to WJZ, he confirmed he would open the church’s files to the Maryland Attorney General’s Office for an investigation reportedly similar to that in Pennsylvania.
Writing, “I have informed the attorney general that the archdiocese is supportive of the review and will be fully cooperative throughout the process.”
Now, as the high ranking Catholics convene inside the Marriott Waterfront, many of them are facing the same.
Attorneys general in 13 states and D.C. are investigating cases of predator priests.
Rocked by that crisis, the Catholic leaders were expected to set aside the traditions of their annual meeting to address a new era of accountability.
For now, that has been paused by the Vatican as the church’s darkest secrets continue to come to light.
Federal officials have reportedly ordered the bishops’ group as a whole to keep records tied to possible sexual misconduct.