The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was planning to vote on a referendum that would hold bishops responsible for failing to protect children from sexual abuse in the church.
In an announcement to his fellow Catholic clergymen, USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said the Holy See requested the conference to hold off their vote until February when the Vatican will hold their global meeting on sexual abuse.
“We are not, ourselves, happy about this,” Mr DiNardo said – with much chagrin – at a press conference in Baltimore on Monday morning. “We have been working hard to get to the action stage, and we’ll do it, but we have to get past this bump in the road.”
Mr DiNardo said he was made aware of the decision on Sunday.
Shortly after after Mr DiNardo’s announcement, Archbishop Christopher Pierre – the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States – argued bishops should not be held responsible for non-ordained members of the church and also should not have to seek assistance from law enforcement to tackle the sexual abuse epidemic.
Pope Francis met with Mr Pierre on Saturday, according to his public schedule.
The Pope is worried about “communion” and would want the church to move together on the sex abuse issue rather than have an outside assembly come up with their own approach, Mr Pierre added. The Pope also insisted that “local church leaders are best equipped to understand and respond to the needs of their communities".
Every two years, the conference convenes bishops from across the US to review, debate and vote on new policies.
The assembly of US bishops are in Baltimore until Wednesday, where they are expected to review several plans designed to address the growing concerns of sexual abuse in the church.
Among those plans include establishing a special commission to hear and review grievances made about bishops, creating a new code of conduct and “protocols for bishops resigned or removed because of abuse".
While the Vatican ordered the bishops to delay voting, they can still debate the proposals.