Pope Francis moves from listening to action against sex abuse in Chile
Pope Francis continues to work to repair the enormous damage done to the victims of the three abuses of power, sex and conscience by clergy of the Catholic Church in Chile, hoping to promote a radical renewal among its pastors and faithful people so that it becomes once again “a prophetic church” and regains the trust of the Chilean population.
Last weekend, Pope Francis hosted a second group of victims of Chile’s most notorious priest predator, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, at Santa Marta, his Vatican guesthouse residence. This time he met with five priests who were victims of Father Karadima, together with two other Chilean priests and two lay people who have helped them with their trauma and sufferings. He hosted the first group at the end of April—the three best-known victims of Father Karadima: Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and José Andrés Murillo. This time some of the five priests asked not to be identified, and the Vatican and Chilean press respected their wishes.
Pope Francis hosted a second group of victims of Chile’s most notorious priest predator, the Rev. Fernando Karadima.
The group of nine arrived at Santa Marta on June 1. The following day, Francis celebrated Mass with the priests and spent more than four hours with the whole group and then met with each of the victims individually.
After their Saturday encounters, two of the priests spoke with journalists. According to media reports, they said they were deeply impressed by how Francis listened to their stories and left them feeling hope for the future.
The Rev. Eugenio De la Fuente, one of Father Karadima’s victims, told reporters he felt “completely understood” by the pope, who was “empathetic” and “suffered and understood my pain.” He said Francis has “a very deep understanding” of the problems in the Chilean church and “is very clear” about what needs to be done and has “some very concrete ideas” about how to move forward. But the priest recognized that it will take time.
The victims said they were deeply impressed by how Francis listened to their stories and left them feeling hope for the future.
The Rev. Francisco Javier Astaburuaga Ossa, who had accompanied two of the victims (Mr. Cruz and Mr. Hamilton) before they made their abuse known publicly, told reporters that Francis encouraged them and emphasized that the renewal of the Chilean church requires “the work of everyone.”
Last week, Francis sent a letter to “the pilgrim People of God” in Chile calling on each one of its members, as well as the different church institutions and organizations, to take responsibility for eliminating that triple abuse and for renewing their church so that it becomes again a prophetic body centered on Jesus Christ and not a source of scandal.
Commenting to the press in Santiago on these latest developments, Bishop Fernando Ramos, the secretary general of the Chilean bishops’ conference, said he believed that the way the pope and the Holy See are dealing with the Chilean case “is something paradigmatic.... In these times it is becoming a paradigm of how to face [the trifecta of abuse].”
The pope’s encounter with the priest-victims marked the end of “the listening phase” and the beginning of actions that need to be taken.
He asserted that the pope’s encounter with the priest-victims marked the end of “the listening phase” and the beginning of actions that need to be taken, which the pope spoke in his letter on April 8 to the Chilean hierarchy.
He said this second phase begins next week when, at the pope’s request, Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu return to Chile to meet with the faithful in the Diocese of Osorno. That is the diocese headed by Bishop Juan Barros whom the three main victims of Father Karadima accuse of witnessing and covering up their abuse. The bishop denies it.
The Vatican, in announcing the visit of the two papal envoys to Chile, said they were going to “advance the process of reparation and healing of the victims.”
Msgr. Bertomeu told El Mercurio, a leading Chilean daily, “We are going in the name of the Holy Father to ask forgiveness and to meet with the people of Osorno. We are going to dialogue with the people; we are going to be with the people of Osorno.”
The Osorno diocese has suffered greatly since Pope Francis assigned Bishop Barros as pastor to the diocese despite the objections of many in the church community. Sources in Rome believe their visit is a prelude to the pope’s acceptance of Bishop Barros’s resignation. On the flight back from Chile in January, Francis revealed that the bishop had twice submitted his resignation but that he had refused it because of lack of evidence against him. What is clear now is that he cannot continue to govern the diocese.
Apart from Bishop Barros, 30 other Chilean bishops handed in their resignation to the pope at the end of their summit meeting last month. Each of them is waiting for the pope to inform them whether he accepts their resignation or not. Sources in Rome think he could accept perhaps as many as 10 of them, but nobody knows for sure how many or when the pope will make his decisions known.
Bishop Fernando Ramos told the Chilean press: “I do not believe that he will accept the resignation of all of the bishops. In no way!” He explained that “our mission is to help the people of God,” and they had handed in their resignations so that the pope can continue to fulfill this mission with a team of his choosing.