The private encounter came a day after Pope Francis summoned the president of every bishops' conference in the world to a meeting at the Vatican on the theme of "the protection of minors".
The pope met today in the Vatican with a small delegation of American Catholic Church leaders, amid the sexual abuse crisis that's dominated conversation about the US church. Its convening signals awareness at the highest levels of the Catholic Church that clergy sex abuse is a global problem, not restricted to some parts of the world or a few Western countries.
In addition, the Vatican has been rocked by an archbishop's accusations that the Pope knew for years about alleged sexual misconduct by a top American cardinal but took no action.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the head of all US bishops, pushed for this meeting and wants a Vatican investigation into how disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick rose to the highest levels of the church despite allegations of sexual misconduct. He had said he wanted to discuss further action to deal with and stop cases of clerical sexual abuse in the US, including how to make bishops more accountable for their actions or punishable for their mismanagement.
The crisis has severely tarnished the standing of Pope Francis and appears likely to undermine it further.
While most have obliged, other conferences particularly in Africa have not, either citing lack of resources or other impediments. Vatican City itself has no such policy, even though the Holy See promised the United Nations five years ago it was developing a "safe environment program" to protect children inside the 110-acre (44-hectare) Vatican City State.
The U.S. isn't alone in digging into its past.
Also on Wednesday, it was revealed that the German Catholic Church will admit to "at least" 3,766 cases of child sex abuse by the clergy between 1946 and 2014 in an upcoming report that leaked to local media outlets Die Zeit and Spiegel Online.
In the United States alone, the church spent about $4bn in compensation and other costs related to the priest sex abuse crisis between 1950 and 2015, according to the National Catholic Reporter.
More than 50 percent of the victims were reportedly 13 years old or younger.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl says he is prepared to step down in the wake of an intense firestorm of criticism over his handling of sex abuse claims dating back decades.
The official findings are not set for release until September 25. "The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence". After news broke of the investigation, several former seminarians and priests came forward to report that they, too, had been abused or harassed by McCarrick as adults.