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The first gathering of the nation’s Catholic bishops since this summer’s wave of anger and recrimination at the hierarchy’s handling of clergy sex-abuse opened Monday with a stunning announcement:

The prelates would not take a promised vote on a series of new accountability measures– and it was the Vatican that ordered them to hold off.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he was “disappointed” by the Holy See’s 11th-hour request, which he received in a letter marked “confidential” on Sunday night, hours before the three-day meeting in Baltimore was to begin.

Explaining its contents to a clearly surprised body of bishops, DiNardo said Pope Francis hoped to address the issue of bishop accountability more globally at a February summit in Rome.

Related Story: AG Josh Shapiro asks Pope Francis for help in Pa. clergy sex abuse case

“I remain hopeful that this additional consultation will ultimately improve our response to the crisis we face,” said DiNardo, who leads the Galveston-Houston archdiocese. He added later: “We remain committed to this specific program of greater episcopal accountability.”

Still, the news caught DiNardo’s brother bishops off guard — and seemingly pulled the rug out from what had been slated as a reckoning for America’s prelates after what some called their “summer of shame.”

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