Pope Francis stops short of offering concrete steps to remove abusive priests

Pope Francis comments on abuse
Pope Francis comments on abuse 02:31

Pope Francis became the first pope to directly write to the world's Catholics about the church's sexual abuse scandal. In a letter published Monday, the pope said the church had abandoned its children, begged victims for forgiveness and said the church must spare no effort to root out predator priests.

The letter comes less than a week after revelations of decades of abuse in Pennsylvania and allegations that the current archbishop of Washington, D.C., was involved in a coverup.

"We showed no care for the little ones," the pope wrote. "We abandoned them."

Francis, however, stopped short of offering concrete steps to remove abusive priests or sanction those who took part in cover-ups.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, now the archbishop of Washington, D.C., was accused in the report of shielding predator priests. As bishop of Pittsburgh for 18 years, he oversaw 32 of of the 99 accused. Wuerl spoke with CBS News the night before the report was released.

"During my tenure, we acted very appropriately, with many times, removal from ministry, totally and completely," he said.

Pushing up a meeting originally scheduled for next week, Wuerl met privately today with priests in the archdiocese's advisory group. He also cancelled his attendance at a Catholic conference next week in Dublin where the pope is expected to appear.

Across the country, revelations of clergy misconduct continues to unfold. Rev. Edmundo Paredes of Dallas is on the run after he was accused of molesting three teenaged boys and stealing thousands of dollars from his parish.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia recently announced two priests unfit for ministry: one faced child sex abuse charges and another faces drug and theft charges.

Survivor accuses archbishop of ignoring abuse... 02:58

Over the years, the U.S. Catholic Church has paid over $3 billion in response to abuse allegations. Some are calling on all Catholics to stop donating until Wuerl steps down.

About 17 million Catholic households donate an average $10 each week, totaling about $9 billion each year.

"As a parishioner it is your right to ask, 'Where is my donation going?' You have that right to ask that and you should," said Judy Jones, a member of the survivors support group SNAP.

Wuerl did not preside over Mass on Sunday, and his spokesman said he was not attending the speech Dublin because it could be a "distraction." His office told CBS News on Monday that he has no plans to resign or step down.

Nikki Battiste contributed to this report.

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    Jan Crawford is CBS News' chief legal correspondent and based in Washington, D.C.