BALTIMORE (AP) – U.S. Catholic bishops have convened a high-stakes national meeting under pressure to defuse the ever-widening clergy sex-abuse crisis that has weakened the church.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In remarks opening the four-day meeting Tuesday, he said the bishops’ “face the task of rooting the evil of sexual abuse from the church.”

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On the agenda are proposals to increase the accountability of bishops in their response to sex abuse cases, and to create an independent, third-party entity that would review allegations of abuse.

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Events of the past year have created unprecedented challenges for the U.S. bishops. Many dioceses have become targets of state investigations since a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August detailed hundreds of cases of alleged abuse.

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