On Friday 34 Chilean bishops offered their resignation to Pope Francis during an emergency summit
The Chilean hierarchy is accused of sexually abusing minors and hindering investigations by the Vatican
Victims of Chilean pedophile priest Fernando Karadima claim bishop Juan Barros knew and helped to cover-up his crimes
In 2015 Francis appointed Barros as bishop of Osorno Chile despite his sex abuse advisers and other bishops recommendations against the decision
On Friday, following an emergency summit with Pope Francis all active Chilean bishops and three retired ones announced they had signed a document offering to resign following one of the largest child sex abuse and cover-up scandals the Vatican has ever faced. What will come from the action is ultimately the pope’s decision. Francis has the choice to accept the resignations one at a time, reject the resignations, or delay the decision.
“We, all the bishops present in Rome, have tendered our resignation to the Holy Father so that he may decide freely for each of us,” the bishops said in a statement following three days of meeting with Francis at the Vatican. The statement went on to say, “We want to ask forgiveness for the pain caused to the victims, to the Pope, to God’s people and to our country for the serious errors and omissions we have committed.”
Members of the Chilean church hierarchy face accusations of ignoring and covering up sexual abuse claims against Chilean pedophile priest Fernando Karadima throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Calls for resignation hit a peak after details emerged from a 2,300-page investigation from the Vatican into the Chilean sex scandal.
Karadima was sanctioned in 2011 by the Vatican to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” for sexually molesting minors. Karadima avoided facing any legal charges after it was determined too much time had passed since the crimes to prosecute.
Chilean TV channel T13 leaked a 10-page letter handed out to the bishops before the emergency summit on Friday. The Vatican confirmed the leaked document was accurate.
In the leaked document, Francis accuses the bishops of destroying evidence of sex crimes and applying pressure to investigators to minimize the abuse allegations. Francis claims the bishops displayed “grave negligence” in protecting children from pedophilic priests.
The investigation also found that some members of the clergy had been transferred to other dioceses following attempts to minimize the gravity of their actions. Sexual abuse accusations “were superficially qualified as improbable” the document states, claiming the bishops demonstrated “terrible negligence in protecting children.”
Francis received negative backlash after he defended Chilean bishop Juan Barros during a visit in January. At that time, the pontiff stated he would not speak out against Barros until he had “proof” of the claims the bishop was facing.
Victims have stated that Barros had witnessed and ignored the pedophiliac abuse at the hands of Karadima. Barros has claimed the allegations against him are false. However, Francis said in a statement he had made “grave errors in judgment” in the case of Barros.
Victims and members of Francis’ sex abuse advisory board lashed out when he appointed Barros as bishop of Osorno, Chile in 2015. Francis made the decision despite other Chilean bishops knowing of Barros’ questionable past and recommending he and all other Karadima-trained bishops take a sabbatical.
In 2015, Karadima’s most outspoken victim, Juan Carlos Cruz, delivered a letter to Francis detailing Barros’ role in covering up sexual abuse against minors. Francis would later claim he never received any details from any of Karadima’s victims, which only added to victim’s outrage.
During his trip to Chile in January, Francis stated the claims against Barros were “calumny.” Francis went on to say he was “certain” that Barros was innocent. Once Francis received the Scicluna-Bertomeu he claimed his flawed judgment was due to “lack of truthful and balanced information.”
Since recanting on his original statement, Francis invited the three main victims of Karadima to the Vatican hotel to apologize in person. While many are glad to see Francis issuing public apologies, the overwhelming request is for Francis to put his words into actions.
Robert Ghal, Associate professor of ethics at Pontifical University of the Holy Cross told Al Jazeera Francis would likely quickly accept the resignations of several of the bishops who were directly involved in sexual abuse or hiding it from Vatican investigators. Ghal went on to say it was very unlikely he would accept all the resignations.
It’s very likely that the pope will accept the resignations very quickly of several of these bishops who were involved directly with their own responsibility in these crimes of sexual abuse and of hiding information from the Vatican investigators.
He really needs to rely upon the people in the country to understand what’s happening there. They’ve already demonstrated their humility and their desire for reform.
The victims themselves of sexual abuse might have a voice in this governance and that’s what he’s striving for and I’m sure he can rely upon many of those good bishops who presented their resignations.