U.S. Catholic bishops gather ahead of church summit on sexual abuse

MUNDELEIN, Ill. -- Catholic bishops from across the U.S. are gathering for a week-long retreat near Chicago ahead of a global summit on the widespread sexual abuse scandals facing the church.

Organizers say the retreat at the largest seminary in the country will focus on prayer and spiritual reflection, but no policies will be formed. Those decisions will be made at a critically-important World Bishop’s conference in February, where the Vatican is expected to formulate new policies and guidelines addressing sexual abuse by clergy members.

These meetings follow reports in Illinois and Pennsylvania that alleged church leaders were negligent in reporting sexual abuse to authorities. In December, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan accused the church of failing to disclose at least 500 clergy members accused of sexually abusing children in the state. A Pennsylvania grand jury recently found that hundreds of priests abused at least 1,000 children over seven decades.

As bishops start to gather, groups like the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and Ending Clergy Abuse are holding demonstrations to call for accountability.

“The church has a history of minimizing and denying the unbelievable pain and horror of being sexually abused by a priest,” said Patricia Gallagher Marchant, SNAP.

Critics at the Chicago Archdiocese offices are denouncing church leadership for what they say has been the unforgivable failure to protect children victimized by predatory priests.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Galveston-Houston Texas archdiocese is asking the faithful for prayers as they take on the difficult task of rooting out what DiNardo calls a, "terrible evil" from the Catholic Church.

“We’re at a crossroads here, where there has to be recommitment to fidelity on the part of everybody in the church, and then honesty, which leads to credibility," said Father Rocky Hoffman, Relevant Radio.