Nov. 12 (UPI) -- Pope Francis has asked U.S. Catholic bishops meeting in Maryland Monday to delay voting on a strategy to handle accusations of clergy sex abuse.
The bishops of nearly 200 U.S. Catholic dioceses and archdioceses gathered in Baltimore Monday for a three-day conference and will vote on measures designed to handle the crisis and prevent future abuse.
The bishops learned in the opening minutes of Monday's session Pope Francis issued a directive to delay any final votes on strategy, The Washington Post reported.
The pope prefers that his global meeting of church leaders, scheduled for February in Rome, comes before any actions by U.S. bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told the convention in Baltimore.
"At the insistence of the Holy See, we will not be voting on the two action items," DiNardo said, adding that he was "disappointed" by the pope's instruction but hopeful the postponement "will improve our response to the crisis we face."
Votes on two proposals -- involving standards for conduct by priests and the formation of a commission to investigate charges against bishops -- were planned. Discussion of both proposals will continue, and Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Chicago archdiocese called for another meeting of U.S. bishops in March, after the pope's meeting in Rome.
"It is clear that the Holy See is taking seriously the abuse crisis in the church," Cardinal Cupich said. "We need to be clear where we stand and tell our people where we stand."
Ann Barrett Doyle, co-director of an independent clergy abuse record-keeping website, was critical of the last-minute change.
"What we see here is the Vatican again trying to suppress even modest progress by the U.S. bishops," said Doyle. "We're seeing where the problem lies, which is with the Vatican. The outcome of this meeting, at best, was going to be tepid and ineffectual, but now it's actually going to be completely without substance."