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Pope to give Chilean bishops a dressing-down on abuse errors

Pope Francis is silhouetted at the end of a private audience with Armenia's President Serzh Sargsyan, at the Vatican, on April 5, 2018. (Alberto Pizzoli/Pool Photo via AP)

VATICAN CITY (AP) —  Pope Francis has summoned Chile’s bishops to Rome for a papal dressing-down because of their role in covering up sexual abuse by priests and their “grave omissions” in caring for victims, the Vatican said.

In a harsh statement that set the tone for next week’s meetings, the Vatican on Saturday (May 12) said Francis wanted to discern responsibilities for the crisis and map changes in the Chilean church to prevent these “devastating wounds” from recurring.

“It is fundamental to re-establish trust in the church through good pastors … who know how to accompany the suffering of victims and work in a determined and tireless way to prevent abuse,” the statement said.

For years, sex abuse victims have blasted the Chilean hierarchy for discrediting their claims, protecting abusers, moving them around rather than turning them over to police and then handing out light sentences when church sanctions are imposed.

Francis appears to have heard their complaints, and is making amends for having repeatedly defended a Chilean bishop accused of witnessing and ignoring abuse. Francis has admitted to “grave errors in judgement” in the case of Bishop Juan Barros, for having discredited the victims who placed him at the scene of their molestation.

Starting Tuesday, Francis will meet with 31 active and two retired Chilean bishops.
The Vatican said Saturday that Francis felt the need to do an “in-depth examination of the causes and consequences” of the multiple incidents of sex abuse and abuses of power and conscience in Chile. He also wanted to examine “the mechanisms that led to some cases of cover-up and the grave omissions concerning victims.”

The Vatican said the meetings would take place in a side room off the Vatican’s audience hall, not in the grandeur of the Apostolic Palace or in the intimacy of the Santa Marta hotel where Francis lives.

Two weeks ago, Francis hosted at Santa Marta the three main whistleblowers in the Chilean scandal: Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo. He spent hours with them in private discussing their abuse and the broader scandal, and invited them up to the palace as he delivered his weekly Sunday blessing.

The Chilean bishops are receiving no such VIP treatment: they are being housed at a residence for priests and tourists near the Vatican.

One key player in the scandal, the retired archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Javier Errazuriz, has said he is not coming, citing personal reasons. Chilean media said Errazuriz was offended that he couldn’t stay at Santa Marta, his usual residence during periodic visits as one of Francis’ nine key cardinal advisers.

The Chilean abuse saga has been brewing for years but it came to a head in January, when Francis strongly defended Barros during a trip to Chile and said accusations he covered up for abuse by Chile’s most famous predator priest were “calumny.”

Francis appeared not to know that the three most vocal victims of the abusive priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, had accused Barros of being on hand for their abuse.

Soon after returning, Francis sent two seasoned investigators to Chile to get to the bottom of the scandal. Their 2,300-page report, containing testimony from 64 victims, priests and laity, prompted Francis to do an about-face. He apologized to the victims and summoned the bishops for a brow-beating.

The bishops have defended their behavior, insisting that they were perfectly forthcoming with Francis about Barros and denied responsibility for the “lack of truthful and balanced information” that Francis blamed for his missteps.

But in a statement this week, they acknowledged that their behavior “hadn’t always managed to heal the wounds” of abuse and said Francis’ meetings with victims “showed the path that the Chilean church is called to follow.”

After four days as Francis’ guests at Santa Marta, the three victims of Chilean sex abuse reported feeling that they had finally been heard, that Francis understood the depth of their pain and the crisis in Chile’s church.

During the meetings with the Chilean bishops next week, Francis will be accompanied by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the head of the Vatican’s bishops’ office who is responsible for vetting new bishops and investigating complicit ones. Five Chilean bishops are retiring or due to retire soon, meaning Francis has a chance to remake Chile’s church hierarchy.

The pope, it said, asked for the bishops to come with “docile and humble” spirit.
It is widely believed that three Karadima-trained bishops, including Barros, will be asked to resign.

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Nicole Winfield

11 Comments

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  • Francis stepped in it and now somebody is going to pay the price. If there had been a real Abuse Tribunal (as promised) with real powers (as promised), maybe the mess would have been cleaned up BEFORE Francis stepped in it.

  • Perpetrating bishops will be “asked to resign”?? What if they refuse? Let’s just lower the bar as far as it will go.

  • “One key player in the scandal, the retired archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Javier Errazuriz, has said he is not coming, citing personal reasons. Chilean media said Errazuriz was offended that he couldn’t stay at Santa Marta, his usual residence during periodic visits as one of Francis’ nine key cardinal advisers.”

    Screw the old fart.

  • The pope should delegate authority to fire a bishop to local clergy and laity. It’s long overdue since they render service and pay the bills.

  • Too little, too late! The dressing down should have been done 1900 years ago: the subject? The fake news of the bible.

  • Oh heavens, a dressing-down for their errors. Because we certainly wouldn’t want to hold them accountable for criminal activity. No, what matters is defending the reputation of the Holy Church, not helping the victims get justice. Ugh.

  • Pedophile Priests & Ministers & Sexual Predators

    Exodus 20 & 21
    Spiritual & social Laws of Holiness & Righteousness & severe punishments for breaking any of them.

    Exodus 21:33 – 22:15
    Laws of public restitution for breaking any of the Laws-Commandments.

    Leviticus 19:20-29 20:10-22
    There are a variety of sexual sins described and prohibited. They are an abomination and compared with vomit. The punishment for breaking YHWH-God’s Law is death.

    1 Samuel 2:12, 22-25, 34; 4:17-18
    Abusive priests are publicly rebuked and punished.

    Matthew 18:1-6
    Whoever causes a child to stumble, the pedophile is better off thrown into the sea with heavy weights.

    Luke 3:8
    Bear (produce) fruit in keeping with repentance, pedophiles. A simple apology doesn’t cut it! You must pay restitution!

    Publicly repent of your sins & receive Jesus Christ into your life & commit your life to Jesus Christ & publicly pay damages to the family of the abused person several times the normal amount. The abused person needs therapy and rehabilitation treatments. Jesus Christ will have the final judgment of the abusive, ungodly, Christ-less priest for all of eternity! Ungodly people will ignore or reject this. Jesus-committed people will submit to Jesus in obedience!

  • Look. They might even be in for a severe finger wagging, mayhap even a tongue lashing.

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