Pope Francis is summoning the presidents of every bishops conference around the world for a February summit to discuss preventing clergy sex abuse and protecting children - evidence that he realizes the scandal is global and that inaction threatens to undermine his legacy.
The Vatican announced Tuesday that Francis, who had met in late August with Washington Cardinal Wuerl - embattled by reports he moved abusive priests between parishes while bishop of Pittsburgh and knew about his predecessor McCarrick - would meet with USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.
The Vatican has known since at least 2000 that the archbishop would habitually invite seminary students to his New Jersey beach house and into his bed.
Mr DiNardo has said recent accusations of top Vatican officials, including the current pope, covering up for McCarrick deserve answers.
The announcement came at the end of a three-day meeting of the "C-9", a group of nine cardinals from around the world who members meet about four times a year to advise the pope. Also involved are two officials from the U.S. conference, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez and Monsignor Brian Bransfield, according to a Vatican statement.
The Americans have called on Francis to launch a Vatican-led investigation into how Theodore McCarrick, a former United States cardinal, climbed the ranks, even as rumours swirled about his behaviour. McCarrick, 88, became a cardinal in 2001 and served as archbishop of Washington from 2001 to 2006.
More recently, Francis's papacy was hit by accusations from a retired Vatican ambassador that he helped a top American cardinal evade sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict for molesting and harassing adult seminarians.
The Vatican hasn't responded to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano's allegations against the pope and some two dozen other Vatican and USA officials, but has promised "clarifications" that could come after Francis' meeting Thursday with the US delegation.
Francis has so far refused to respond to the allegations.
On Tuesday, he drew Satan into the fray, suggesting that the devil was behind Vigano's revelations. "He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people".
Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, a top aide to both retired Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, told a book presentation Tuesday that he by no means was comparing the scandal to the almost 3,000 people killed in the US on September 11, 2001.