In one of the most damning documents from the Vatican on the issue, Pope Francis has called out the entire Chilean church hierarchy as being collectively responsible for ‘grave defects’ in handling of church related sex-scandals and the resulting loss of credibility that the Catholic Church has suffered.
‘No one can exempt himself and place the problem on the shoulders of the others,’ Francis wrote in the document, which was published by Chilean T13 television and confirmed as accurate Friday by the Vatican.
All 34 Chilean bishops who attended a crisis meeting this week with Pope Francis about the cover-up of sexual abuse in their country have offered to resign, it has emerged.
Chile’s college of bishops also apologized to the country, the victims of abuse and the pope for the scandal, released an extraordinary joint statement.
It was not immediately clear if the Vatican had accepted their resignation.
The bishops announced at the end of an emergency summit with Pope Francis that all 31 active bishops and three retired ones in Rome had signed a document offering to resign and putting their fate in the hands of the pope.
Calls had mounted for the resignations after details emerged of the contents of a 2,300-page Vatican report into the Chilean scandal leaked early Friday.
Francis on Thursday ended his emergency summit with the bishops by thanking them for their ‘full willingness’ to do whatever it takes to recover from a sex abuse and cover-up scandal that has discredited the church.
The pope had accused the clergymen of destroying evidence of sex crimes, pressuring investigators to minimize abuse accusations and showing ‘grave negligence’ in protecting children from paedophile priests.
Members of Chile’s bishops conference Luis Fernando Ramos Perez (right) and Juan Ignacio Gonzalez, meet reporters at the Vatican today
In response, the leaders of Chile’s congregation of Catholics admitted that the contents of the document were ‘absolutely deplorable’ and showed an ‘unacceptable abuse of power and conscience,’ as well as sexual abuse.
They asked forgiveness to the victims, the pope and all Catholics and vowed to repair the damage.
Francis summoned the entire bishops’ conference to Rome after admitting that he had made ‘grave errors in judgment’ in the case of Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused by victims of Chilean priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, of witnessing and ignoring their abuse.
But the scandal grew beyond the Barros case after Francis received the report written by two Vatican sex crimes experts sent to Chile to get a handle on the scope of the problem.
Their report hasn’t been made public, but Francis cited its core findings in the footnotes of the document that he handed over to the bishops at the start of their summit this week.
And those findings are damning.
The pontiff said the entire Chilean church hierarchy was collectively responsible for ‘grave defects’ in handling cases and the consequent loss of credibility for the Church
Francis said the investigation revealed ‘grave defects’ in the way abuse cases were handled, with superficial investigations or no investigation at all of allegations that contained obvious evidence of crimes.
The result, he said, ‘created a scandal for those who denounced them and all those who know the alleged victims.’
In other cases, there was ‘grave negligence’ in protecting children from pedophiles by bishops and religious superiors – a reference to the many cases of sexual abuse that have arisen in recent years within Chilean religious orders, including the Salesians, Franciscans and the Marist Brothers community.
Some of these religious order priests and brothers were expelled from their congregations because of immoral conduct, but had their cases ‘minimized of the absolute gravity of their criminal acts, attributing to them mere weakness or moral lapses,’ Francis wrote.
But those same people ‘were then welcomed into other dioceses, in an obviously imprudent way, and given diocesan or parish jobs that gave them daily contact with minors,’ he said.
Chile’s College of Bishops seen photo], withe Catholic Pontiff at the Vatican, also apologized to Chile, the victims, the pope and all Catholics and vowed to repair the damage
Tha Catholic Pontiff said he was also ‘perplexed and ashamed’ by the report’s evidence that there were ‘pressures exercised’ on church officials tasked with investigating sex crimes ‘including the destruction of compromising documents on the part of those in charge of ecclesiastic archives.’
The report levelled ‘grave accusations against some bishops and superiors who sent to these educational institutions priests suspected of active homosexuality.’
Such behavior showed ‘an absolute lack of respect for the canonical process and worse, reprehensible practices that must be avoided in the future,’ he said.
Francis blamed the ‘profound fracture’ within the church on the seminaries themselves whe viewed against a backdrop of how wide the malaise spread. The problem wasn’t limited to a group of people, but can be traced to the training Chilean priests receive in seminary, he observed.
Tipping point: Bishop Juan Barros Madrid of Osorno diocese, Chile, had claimed that he did not know his longtime friend Father Fernando Karadima was a sexual abuser, despite the claims of protesters alleging that Barros helped cover up Karadima’s abuse.
The harsh assessment of the quality of seminaries suggests that a possible next step might be a full-on Vatican investigation of Chilean schools of priestly training.
Pope Benedict XVI ordered such an investigation into Irish seminaries after he convened the entire Irish bishops’ conference for a similar dressing-down in 2010 over their dismal handling of abuse cases.
‘The problems inside the church community can’t be solved just by dealing with individual cases and reducing them to the removal of people, though this – and I say so clearly – has to be done,’ Francis wrote.
‘But it’s not enough, we have to go beyond that. It would be irresponsible on our part to not look deeply into the roots and the structures that allowed these concrete events to occur and perpetuate.’
Chile’s bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez, answering questions from the media at the Vatican on Friday
For years, sex abuse victims have blasted the Chilean hierarchy for discrediting their claims, protecting abusers and moving them around rather than reporting them to police and then handing out light sentences when church sanctions were imposed.
Based on Francis’ footnotes, the Vatican investigation compiled by the Catholic Church’s top abuse prosecutor, Archbishop Charles Scicluna and his aide, Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu, gave full credibility to the victims.
Francis, though, has also been implicated in the scandal, and in his document saying all Chilean bishops bore blame he added ‘and me first of all.’
The Vatican Francis first drew scorn from victims, ordinary Chileans and even members of his sex abuse advisory board when appointing Juan Barros bishop of Osorno, Southern Chile, in 2015. Allegedly, over riding the objections of other Chilean bishops who knew Barros’ past was problematic and had recommended he and other Karadima-trained bishops resign and take a sabbatical.
“Decades previously, Bishop Barros had been a close friend to Father Fernando Karadima, an influential Santiago-area priest who fostered the vocations of about 40 priests, including Barros.
When reports of sexual abuse and other scandal surrounding Karadima surfaced, Bishop Barros was among the prelates who did not believe the accusations. A civil lawsuit against the priest was dismissed on the grounds that his alleged behavior was beyond the statute of limitations.
Even as he was convicted Father Fernando Karadima continued protesting his innocence
In February 2011, however, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith finished its investigation with the conclusion that the priest was guilty. At the age of 84, Karadima was sent to a life of solitude and prayer.
Bishop Barros said he had already been distancing himself from the priest before allegations surfaced, because he had become “ill-tempered.”
“The pain of the victims hurts me enormously, I pray for those that carry this pain with them today,” he said in a 2015 letter to the faithful of the Diocese of Osorno ahead of his installation.” – Catholic News Agency
The appointment drew objections and a call for his resignation from several priests. Dozens of protesters, including non-Catholics, attempted to disrupt his March 21, 2015 installation Mass at the Osorno cathedral.
The AP subsequently reported that Francis had received a letter in 2015 from one of Karadima’s most vocal accusers, Juan Carlos Cruz, detailing Barros’ misdeeds.
Francis further enraged Chileans and drew sharp rebuke from his top abuse adviser when, during a January trip to Chile, he said the accusations against Barros were ‘calumny’ and said he was ‘certain’ he was innocent.
The emergence of the Scicluna-Bertomeu report however, changed Vatican stance on the issue.
The pope blaming a ‘lack of truthful and balanced information’ about the case for his missteps, invited the three main whistleblowers to the Vatican to apologize in person.