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Vatican City – With the Catholic Church in crisis once again over clerical sex abuse and cover-up, Pope Francis will meet Thursday with U.S. cardinals and bishops who are demanding to know how one of their own was able to climb the clerical ranks despite allegations that he slept with seminarians.

The Vatican said Tuesday that the U.S. delegation would be headed by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and also include Francis’ top sex abuse adviser, Cardinal Sean O’Malley.

Di Nardo has said he wants Francis to authorize a full-fledged Vatican investigation into ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was removed as cardinal in July after a credible accusation that he groped a teenager.

The Vatican has known since at least 2000 that McCarrick would invite seminarians to his New Jersey beach house and into his bed.

And yet St. John Paul II made him archbishop of Washington and a cardinal in 2001, presumably because Vatican officials impressed by his fundraising prowess considered his past homosexual activity a mere “moral lapse” and not a gross abuse of power.

DiNardo has also said recent accusations that top Vatican officials - including the current pope - covered up for McCarrick since 2000 deserve answers.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said DiNardo and O’Malley would meet with Francis on Thursday in the Apostolic Palace. 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 McCarrick scandal took on crisis proportions two weeks ago after the Vatican’s former U.S. ambassador, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, accused two dozen Vatican and U.S. cardinals and bishops by name of covering up for McCarrick.

Specifically, Vigano accused Francis of rehabilitating McCarrick from canonical sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 or 2010. The Vatican hasn’t responded to the accusations, but presumably the “clarifications” it has promised will come sometime after this week’s meet.

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