Pope Francis moves from listening to action against sex abuse in Chile

Pope Francis leads his general audience Jan. 24 in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. (CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

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.

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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.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of the sex abuse crisis]

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.

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Christopher Lochner
2 months 1 week ago

Ultimately, the ongoing and terribly negative publicity could no longer continue to be ignored. And as for "our mission is to help the people of God" ...Zounds!!!... If only this was so then wouldn't the Catholic world become so much better. I still have a rather naive hope in the possibility of the statement becoming a reality...but...will not hold my breath.

Brian Toale
2 months 1 week ago

Pope Francis can look more deeply into the causes of the sexual abuse in Chile, but that will take centuries to produce meaningful change. If the plan is to claim to only now realize the scope of the issue, without exposing decades of complicity, it's the only way.

While it appears he wants to address the issue of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, he's attempting to without causing additional harm to the Church's reputation. It's a plan to weather the storm, not to make things right and given the depth and breadth of the problem, doomed to failure.

A secretive, elite hierarchy, amassing wealth, power and influence over their devoted followers, like the Catholic Church has been for millennia, cannot suddenly start honestly self-policing. Yet the attempt to do just that reveals the true goal, the preservation of said wealth, power and influence at the cost of principles the Church was founded to promote. 

Those who've done research into this stopped trusting the Church long ago. With every new day come new revelations making it harder for even the most faithful to continue believing its propaganda. Francis must realize the Church just makes its situation worse by continuing to cover up the cover-ups.

There are 12 Step recovery slogans that are made for the choices the Church faces now.

"You can't save your ass and your face at the same time!" | "Whatever you put before your recovery you will ultimately lose anyway." | "To get out of the hole you are in, first stop digging." |"Surrender to win."

Francis could indeed be the one who resets the Church's moral authority but not unless/until he is able to "surrender to win". He must bite the bullet and guide the Church to stop fighting this losing battle. A good start would be to direct his Bishops to:

-Stop lobbying against statute of limitations reforms.

-Cooperate with law enforcement.

-Not block Grand Jury reports.

-Turn over their "Secret Archives"

-Stop hiding/hoarding wealth for a rainy day and realize the storm is upon them.

Another apt slogan from recovery goes "It's simple, not easy!"  Overcoming 2000 years of entrenched defenses is not an easy task. As political as the Catholic Church has become it could be extremely hazardous for the papacy of Francis to even attempt such reforms. Only time will tell if he is the man for this season.

John Walton
2 months 1 week ago

I am not a millenarial conspiracy theorist, but would remind all that the Chilean bishops were deadset against the Socialist/Marxist regime of Allende, long those 45 years ago. Isn't it curious that Bergolio seeks to replace the upper rank of the episcopacy in Chile, the only functioning democracy in South America, the only healthy economy in South America.

Henry George
2 months 1 week ago

After the investigations are over, but before he himself resigns,
Pope Francis should order all the Bishops/Cardinals/Priests
involved in this who covered up or took advantage of other people
to resign and live a life of penance.

After this Pope Francis should ask Pope Benedict to go and find,
as he will, a Carthusian Monastery, wher they will spend the rest of their lives doing penance.

Phillip Stone
2 months ago

It is within the power of the ruler of the administration of the fellowship of believers to clarify the essence of the rite of reconciliation.

A priority would be to take the superstition out of the clerical perception of the sacrament.
1. Acknowledgement of the act or omission as a grave matter, knowing fully what is being done by exercise of freedom of the will.
2. Confession of such act or omission in full measure without censorship or embellishment or self-justification.
3. Sorrow for it. Genuine remorse.
4. Absolution clearly understood as conditional upon 5.
5. Restitution included in the given penance. This must include giving oneself up to the properly constituted authority for trial, judgement of the law and punishment according to the law if it was actually a criminal offence as well as a mortal sin.

A very long debate will be needed about making the seal of the confessional as absolute as it is today. Putting 5. into the rite spares the minister of the sacrament from mandatory disclosure but it may not be enough for justice to be served.

kimmexooz205@yahoo.com
1 month 4 weeks ago

Men who molest Little Boys are Homosexuals. They are attracted - to the Male Mind of Little BOYS, The Spirit, psyche, and innocence - of the Male. They are interested in Discovering and Opening the DOOR of the Child ( MALE _ ) into sexual *( NEW ) Surprising sensations and NEW feelings - Pedophiles are themselves - feeling NEW SENSATIONS themselves __---- in unison with the Body and innocence of the Little Boy. Awakening the Child to sexuality.

When a man has seXual contact with a male child - this is a homoseXual act.

this is the facts. If the grown man had never been a homoseXual before, the moment He makes seXual contact with a little boy - The grown man has encountered his first homoseXual eXperience and the little boy has also been introduced to a homoseXual act.

And homoseXual molestation is the most horrible eXperience that a child could eXperience when the CHILD IS NOT A HOMOSEXUAL.

The liberal democrat perverts seem to pretend to know and demand that a little Child can know if He is Transgender or Gay / homoseXual at a very, very early age.

While The liberal democrat perverts pretend that seX act involving a man and a little boy is somehow suddenly not a homoseXual act.

This shows how demented, perverted and evil that these people truly are. Liberal Democrats have no place in the role of family and mortality and should be eXcluded from voting and society as a norm.

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