The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will not be considering two measures it drafted in response to the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Church, after the Vatican intervened at the last minute. Announcing the surprise move at the start of the bishops' annual fall assembly, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said, "At the insistence of the Holy See, we will not be voting" on the changes.

"The Holy See has asked that we delay voting," DiNardo said, because Pope Francis plans to hold a global meeting of conference presidents, scheduled for February of 2019.

One of the two "action items" would establish standards of accountability for bishops; the other would set up a special commission for receiving complaints against bishops.

"I am sorry for the late notice, but in fact this was conveyed to me late yesterday afternoon," said DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston.

"Although I am disappointed that we will not be taking these actions tomorrow" through a vote, DiNardo said, he added that he hopes the delay will let the Catholic Church improve its response to the abuse crisis.

The sudden change in the bishops' agenda came after they gathered in Baltimore, planning to put in place what the conference called "a series of concrete measures" in response to the sexual abuse scandal. Revelations and fallout have continued to unfold in recent months, with more than 300 "predator priests" implicated by a recent grand jury report in Pennsylvania.

Even before that shocking report emerged in August, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, said he was concerned that the Church wasn't responding quickly or actively enough to the crisis.

After news spread that the Vatican had urged the U.S. bishops to hold off on taking their own action, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports, "Critics of the delay said it sends the message that the Holy See does not grasp the depth of the crisis."

When DiNardo began the bishops' meeting on Monday, he devoted a large chunk of his opening address to speak directly to abuse survivors.

"Where I have not been watchful or alert to your needs, wherever I have failed, I am deeply sorry," DiNardo said.

DiNardo also stated, "Some would say this is entirely a crisis of the past. It is not. We must never victimize survivors over again by demanding they heal on our timeline."

Many of the abuse cases that have now become part of the public record date from years or decades ago, the president of the U.S. bishops said.

"But the pain is daily," DiNardo added.

At a midday news conference that focused heavily on the months-long delay, DiNardo said that even though the U.S. bishops can't take a vote, they would still work to clarify the actions they want to take, "so that Rome will see that."

"We are not, ourselves, happy about this," he said.

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