The 34 Chilean bishops that make up the country’s episcopal conference released a statement on Friday offering to resign and putting their fate in the hands of Pope Francis.
18 May 2018
By Linda Bordoni
Members of Chile’s bishops conference release a statement in which they offer to resign following the clerical sex abuse scandal in their country (AFP or licensors)
Following three days of meetings with Pope Francis in the Vatican, the bishops of Chile met the press and read a statement in which they thanked the Pope for having listened to them “paternally and for having offered his fraternal correction” during these days “of reflection and prayer”.
Resignations in Pope’s hands
Speaking briefly to the press after having read their statement, the bishops explained that they have put their positions “in the hands of the Holy Father and will leave it to him to decide freely” for each of them.
They also referred to a document handed to them personally by the Pope in which are indicated a series of “absolutely reprehensible things that have happened in the Chilean Church in relation to unacceptable abuses of power, conscience and of sexual [nature], and which have led to diminishing of the prophetic vigor that characterized the Church.”
Appeal for forgiveness
Above all, the bishops said, they ask forgiveness for the pain caused to the victims of clerical sex abuse, to the Pope, to the people of God and to their country for their grave mistakes and omissions.
They also expressed gratitude to Archbishop Charles Scicluna and to Fr Jordi Bertomeu, the prelates charged by the Pope to investigate and to draw up the 2,300 page report into the sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Chilean Church, “for their pastoral and personal dedication, and for their effort of the past weeks to try and bring healing to the wounds of society and of the Church in their country.
“We thank the victims, the bishops continued , for their perseverance and for their courage in the face of all the grave personal, spiritual, social and family difficulties they have had to face,” a burden, they specified, often aggravated by the incomprehension and attacks of the ecclesial community.
And imploring, yet again their forgiveness, the bishops asked for their help to be able to go forward on a path of healing.
A milestone in a process of deep change
Describing the past days of “honest dialogue” as a milestone in a process of deep change guided by Pope Francis, the bishops said that in communion with the Pope, they wish to re-establish justice and contribute to repair the damage caused, in order to give new impetus to the prophetic mission of the Church in Chile, where, they said, “Christ should always have been at the center.”
Vowing to commit themselves fully to this new path the bishops concluded their statement expressing their desire that “the face of the Lord may shine anew” in the Chilean Church and with “humility and hope” they appealed to all to help them in their endeavor.
UPDATED: All of Chile’s bishops offer resignations after meeting pope on abuse
National Catholic Reporter
Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez Errazuriz of San Bernardo, Chile, and Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos Perez of Santiago, Chile, at a press conference in Rome May 18 announcing that every bishop in Chile offered his resignation to Pope Francis after a three-day meeting with him at the Vatican. (CNS/Paul Haring)
This story was updated at 8:30 a.m. central time with additional reporting about the document in which Francis gave his evaluation of the situation of the church in Chile.
The story was updated again at 9:20 a.m. central time to add reactions from abuse survivors and advocates.
Vatican City — Every bishop in Chile offered his resignation to Pope Francis after a three-day meeting at the Vatican to discuss the clerical sexual abuse scandal.
“We want to announce that all bishops present in Rome, in writing, have placed our positions in the Holy Father’s hands so that he may freely decide regarding each one of us,” Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez Errazuriz of San Bernardo said May 18 in a statement on behalf of the country’s bishops.
The unprecedented decision was made on the final day of their meeting May 15-17 with Francis.
Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos Perez of Santiago, secretary-general of the Chilean bishops’ conference, said the pope had read to the 34 bishops a document in which he “expressed his conclusions and reflections” on the 2,300-page report compiled by Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and his aide, Fr. Jordi Bertomeu, during a visit to Chile to investigate the scandal.
“The pope’s text clearly showed a series of absolutely reprehensible acts that have occurred in the Chilean church in relation to those unacceptable abuses of power, of conscience and sexual abuse that have resulted in the lessening of the prophetic vigor that characterized her,” Ramos said.
After reflecting on the pope’s assessment, he added, the bishops decided to hand in their resignations “to be in greater harmony with the will of the Holy Father.”
“In this way, we could make a collegial gesture in solidarity to assume responsibility — not without pain — for the serious acts that have occurred and so that the Holy Father can, freely, have us at his disposal,” Ramos said.
After news of the resignations broke Friday morning, Chilean abuse survivor Juan Carlos Cruz tweeted: “I’m very excited about all of this. It does good to our beloved country, to so many people who have suffered because of lying and corrupt bishops, and all the survivors in the world who have been ignored.”
“Now there’s no giving up. History [or the story] changed. Sincere thanks,” Cruz tweeted.
Cruz was one of three abuse survivors who met with Francis individually for several hours over the last weekend in April, and then again together April 30. Cruz, James Hamilton and José Andrés Murillo were each abused as minors by Fr. Fernando Karadima. They were invited to the Vatican by Francis after he admitted making “serious mistakes” in his handling of clergy sexual abuse cases in Chile.
Anne Barrett Doyle of the abuse watchdog group BishopAccountability.org said, “Today’s en masse resignation is historic — it certainly will be seen as a milestone in the resolution of this crisis.”
“Catholics everywhere owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the steely and gutsy survivors who brought this about. Juan Carlos Cruz, Dr. James Hamilton and José Andrés Murillo withstood years of disrespect from Catholic church leaders, including the Pope himself, to get us to this point,” Barret Doyle said.
“Thanks too to Pope Francis for acting boldly at last,” she said.
Murillo tweeted: “For dignity, justice and truth: out with all the bishops. Criminals. They didn’t know how to protect the weakest, they exposed them to abuse and later they obstructed justice. For this, they only deserve to go.”
The bishops will continue in office unless or until the pope accepts their resignations.
The document in which Francis gave his evaluation of the situation of the church in Chile was leaked May 17 by Chilean news channel Tele 13. The Associated Press reported that the Vatican confirmed the document’s authenticity.
The pope wrote in the document that removing some church leaders from office “must be done,” but that “it is not enough; we must go further. It would be irresponsible of us not to go deep in looking for the roots and structures that allowed these concrete events to happen and carry on.”
In it, the pope said that “the painful situations that have happened are indications that something is wrong with the ecclesial body.”
The wound of sexual abuse, he said, “has been treated until recently with a medicine that, far from healing, seems to have worsened its depth and pain.”
Reminding the bishops that “the disciple is not greater than his master,” Francis warned them of a “psychology of the elite” that ignores the suffering of the faithful.
He also said he was concerned by reports regarding “the attitude with which some of you bishops have reacted in the face of present and past events.”
This attitude, the pope said, was guided by the belief that instead of addressing the issue of sexual abuse, bishops thought that “just the removal of people would solve the problem.”
In an accompanying footnote, the pope said the bishops’ behavior could be labeled as “the Caiphas syndrome,” referring to the high priest who condemned Jesus saying, “Better for one man to die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
The act of covering up cases of abuse, he added, was akin to the Latin American saying, “Muerto el perro se acabo la rabia” (“Dead dogs don’t bite”).
The document’s footnotes included several details from the investigation made by Scicluna, who is president of a board of review within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; the board handles appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse or other serious crimes.
The pope said the report confirmed that, in some instances, the bishops deemed accusations of abuse as “implausible.”
But Francis said he was “perplexed and ashamed” after he received confirmation that undue pressure by church officials was placed on “those who carry out criminal proceedings” and that church officials had destroyed compromising documents.
Those actions, he said, “give evidence to an absolute lack of respect for the canonical procedure and, even more so, are reprehensible practices that must be avoided in the future.”
Following the document’s release, Cruz applauded the pope’s evaluation of the abuse crisis and of the bishops’ behavior toward survivors of sexual abuse.
“This is the pope that I met during my conversations in the Vatican,” Cruz told Chilean news site, Emol, May 17. “I hope all (the bishops) resign and that the church in Chile begins to rebuild with true shepherds and not with these corrupt bishops who commit and cover up crimes, as the document states.”
[NCR Staff contributed to this report.]
Christ’s disciples will be led where they do not want to go, pope says
May 18, 2018
ROME – Priests are called to love, care for others and prepare for the cross, Pope Francis said.
Celebrating Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae May 18, Pope Francis focused his homily on the day’s reading from St. John’s Gospel (21:15-19). Jesus asks Simon Peter three times, “Do you love me,” and each time that Simon Peter replies he does, Jesus tells him to feed and tend his sheep. He then forewarns his disciple that following him would lead to going “where you do not want to go.”
This Gospel passage, the pope said, is “the road map of a pastor, the compass” that must guide his ministry and life journey: “Love me, care (for others) and prepare yourself.”
Love is the essential rule or “grammar” for being “true disciples of the son of God,” he said.
Jesus is telling Peter, “Love me more than the others, love me as you can, but love me. This is what the Lord asks us priests and all of us, too: ‘Love me.’ The first passage in dialogue with the Lord is love,” Francis said.
Tending to and “taking care of” are also essential to the “true identity” of a bishop and priest because they are called to be shepherds, he said.
And, in addition, all those who embrace the Lord are destined to carry the cross, to leave what they have behind, he said.
“Prepare yourself for ordeals, prepare yourself to leave everything so that another may come and do something different. Prepare yourself for this annihilation in life. They will lead you along the path of humiliation, perhaps along the path of martyrdom” or the same people who had once showered them with praise will bad-mouth them, he said.
Get ready for the cross, he said, “when they lead you where you do not want to go.”
The pope ended his homily by warning against the temptation of being nosy and “sticking one’s nose in other people’s lives.”
He also said, “don’t waste time” in cliques or coteries “climbing” the way up in the Church. “Love, feed and prepare and don’t fall into temptation.”
At the end of three days of reflection with the bishops of Chile in the Vatican, from May 15-17, 2018, Pope Francis handed them a letter stressing the “gravity of the abuses “on minors, of power and of conscience,” committed by members of the Church in the country over the past decades.
The Chilean Bishops were convoked after the inquiry carried out by the Pope’s special envoy, Archbishop of Malta, Charles J. Scicluna, President of the Special College of Appeal in the case of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy, within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the case of Bishop of Osorno, Juan de la Cruz Barros, accused of being in the know of the sexual abuses committed by his former mentor, Father Karadima.
On April 11 the Pope, who earlier had defended Bishop Barros, acknowledged that he had “committed grave errors in the evaluation and perception of the situation, primarily due to a lack of truthful and balanced information.”
In this new message in Spanish, the Holy Father thanks the bishops for their participation in “a frank discernment” and asks certain victims he met on April 25 for forgiveness “from the depth of his heart”.
Recalling the resolutions to be implement in the ”short term, medium term and long term,” the Pontiff mandates the Chilean bishops to “build a prophetic Church, which knows how to put what is important at the center: the service of the Lord in those that are hungry, are prisoners, are migrants and those that have been abused.”
Over three days, the Pope met four times a day with the country’s more than 30 bishops.
Here is the Vatican-provided English translation of the letter:
To the bishops of Chile:
Dear brothers in the episcopate,
I wish to thank you for having accepted my invitation so that, together, we may make a frank discernment regarding the serious events which have damaged the ecclesial communion and undermined the work of the Church in Chile in recent years.
In light of these painful incidents which concern abuse – of minors, power, and conscience – we exchanged views on their seriousness as well as on their tragic consequences, particularly for the victims. For each of them I have wholeheartedly asked for forgiveness, an action to which all of you have united in one will and with the firm intention of repairing the damage done.
I thank you for the total willingness each one of you has shown to join and collaborate in all the changes and resolutions that we will need to implement in the short-, medium-, and long-term in order to restore justice and ecclesial communion.
Following these days of prayer and reflection, I give you a mandate to continue building a prophetic Church capable of giving pride-of-place to what is most important: Service to the Lord in the hungry, the prisoner, the migrant, and the abused.
Please do not forget to pray for me.
May Jesus bless you and the Virgin Mary watch over you.
[Original Text: Spanish, translation provided by Vatican News]