Chile’s Catholic bishops have “offered to resign en masse over a sexual abuse and cover-up scandal that has embroiled Pope Francis and has been highly damaging to the Catholic Church.
“Thirty-one serving bishops and three retired bishops signed a letter of resignation on Friday. ‘We have put our positions in the hands of the Holy Father and will leave it to him to decide freely for each of us,’ they said. ‘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.’ There was no immediate indication of whether the pope would accept their resignations.
“The bishops’ move came after Francis said the Chilean church hierarchy was collectively responsible for ‘grave defects’ in handling sexual abuse cases and the resulting loss of credibility suffered by the church. He accused them of destroying evidence of sexual crimes, putting pressure on investigators to downplay abuse accusations and showing ‘grave negligence’ in protecting children from pedophile priests.
“‘No one can exempt himself and place the problem on the shoulders of the others,’ Francis said in a letter to the bishops.
“Francis summoned the bishops to a three-day emergency summit in Rome after he was forced to admit he had made ‘grave errors in judgment’ in the case of Juan Barros, a bishop who had been accused of covering up alleged abuse by a Chilean priest, Fernando Karadima, in the 1980s and 90s.
“The Chilean church has been rocked by the allegations of abuse by Karadima and others, and by claims that senior figures knew about or even witnessed what was going on. Now 87 and living in a nursing home in Chile, Karadima has always denied the allegations. Barros has said he was unaware of any wrongdoing.
Francis strongly defended Barros during a visit to Chile in January, accusing Karadima’s accusers of slander in remarks that shocked Chileans and others around the world. ‘There is not one piece of evidence against [Barros]. It is calumny,’ he said.
“Francis’s comments were seen as highly damaging to his reputation, compounding a widespread view that he has failed to take a robust stance on the issue of clerical sexual abuse since becoming pope. The Vatican later sent two experts on sexual crimes to investigate claims of widespread abuse and cover-up in Chile. They delivered a 2,300-page report.
“In a 10-page letter commenting on the report, which was handed to the Chilean bishops at the start of the summit, the pope said the church authorities had minimized ‘the absolute gravity of their [priests’] criminal acts, attributing to them mere weakness or moral lapses.’
“Priests accused of abuse were moved but ‘were then welcomed into other dioceses, in an obviously imprudent way, and given… jobs that gave them daily contact with minors.’
“Francis said he was ‘perplexed and ashamed’ by the report’s evidence that pressure was put on church officials tasked with investigating sexual crimes, ‘including the destruction of compromising documents on the part of those in charge of ecclesiastic archives.’
“He said: ‘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. 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.’
“In an attempt to limit the damage caused by his comments in January defending Barros, the pope met and apologized to three Chilean abuse survivors at his Vatican residence, the Casa Santa Marta.”
“The sins of Babylon will be laid open. The fearful results of enforcing the observances of the church by civil authority, the inroads of spiritualism, the stealthy but rapid progress of the papal power—all will be unmasked. By these solemn warnings the people will be stirred. Thousands upon thousands will listen who have never heard words like these. In amazement they hear the testimony that Babylon is the church, fallen because of her errors and sins, because of her rejection of the truth sent to her from heaven.” The Great Controversy, page 606.