The child sex-abuse crisis engulfing the Catholic Church has prompted the archbishop of Philadelphia to ask Pope Francis to cancel a bishops' conference focusing on youth in the church scheduled to begin in a month.
Archbishop Charles Chaput made the request by letter, a spokesman for the archdiocese confirmed Saturday, though he would not comment further. The Youth Synod, which would include bishops from around the world, has been in the works for two years and is focused on the theme "young people, the faith, and vocational discernment," according to the event's website. An international panel of youths are expected to join the council of bishops for the event.
"I have written the Holy Father and called on him to cancel the forthcoming synod on young people," Chaput said at a conference Thursday at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, according to LifeSite News, a conservative Catholic website. "Right now, the bishops would have absolutely no credibility in addressing this topic."
Instead, Chaput asked that the synod be refocused on the life of bishops.
Allegations of widespread child sexual abuse committed by priests, and efforts by their superiors to protect the offenders, have become a worldwide scandal, in part due to a grand jury report issued last month by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office. More than 1,000 children were abused over seven decades, the report found, in a review that implicated more than 300 priests and their superiors in the Pittsburgh, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Allentown, and Scranton Dioceses.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who had been the archbishop of Washington, D.C., resigned in July in the wake of allegations that he sexually abused a boy and groped or harassed young seminarians and a priest. Subsequently, a former Vatican ambassador to the United States claimed that both popes Francis and Benedict XVI were aware of McCarrick's misconduct years earlier. Days later, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the Vatican was aware of the cover-up of sex crimes committed by clergy, though he did not say Pope Francis personally knew.
The synod is scheduled to run from Oct. 3 to 28. A description of the event's purpose begins: "Taking care of young people is not an optional task for the Church, but an integral part of her vocation and mission in history."