The Vatican could no longer ignore allegations of sexual abuse
In an unprecedented case, all the bishops of Chile presented their resignation before Pope Francis, cornered by pedophilia scandals and their subsequent cover-up for decades by the ecclesiastical leadership of the Andean country.
The change of attitude of the Pope, who at first ignored the victims, precipitated this historic decision, which is the culmination of years of abuse, destruction of evidence and complicit silence. Now, the fate of the Chilean episcopate is in the hands of Francisco, who must decide whether to accept this resignation en bloc or study case by case.
The spokesmen of the Chilean episcopal conference, the prelates Fernando Ramos and Juan Ignacio González Errázuriz, were in charge of announcing the resignation: "we want to communicate that all the bishops present in Rome, in writing, want to make our positions available to the Holy Father for that freely decide with respect to each one of us". In total there were 34 bishops (31 incumbents and 3 emeritus) who formally submitted their resignation. All this after Francisco summoned them to Rome and gave them a document in which he demanded the purification of responsibilities to deepen pedophile scandals in order to "reestablish justice and communication" in a country where only 44% of the population declares themselves Catholic, the lowest percentage in Latin America.
Most of the bishops have already returned to Chile, and almost all opted for silence before the journalists' questions, except for Carlos Pellegrini, prelate of Chillán, who on his arrival at the Santiago airport said that "they had had a day with the Holy Father of great pain, and also of shame, because as a church we have not always done things well".
This massive resignation is a first step for the victims in their fight against impunity and this is how Juan Carlos Cruz expressed it on Twitter: "this changes things forever". Cruz was one of the three victims recently received by the Pope, along with James Hamilton and José Andrés Murillo. "They did not know how to protect the weakest, expose them to abuses and then prevent justice. That's why they just deserve to leave", Murillo wrote in the same social network.
Most pedophilia cases occurred in the 70s and 80s, but it was not until 2011 that a priest, Fernando Karadima, was found guilty of sexual abuse and suspended for life. Karadima was also linked to the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
When in 2015 the Pope gave his approval to the appointment of Juan Barros as head of the diocese of Osorno, the Karadima case was again up to date, as many accused Barros of covering up their abuses. When in January of this year Francisco visited Chile, he refused to cease from his post to Barros despite the victims' continuous requests and, visibly angered, he told the journalists who asked him about this case: "The day they bring me a test against Bishop Barros, there I will speak. There is not a single proof against. Everything is slander. Is it clear? "
The pontiff's attitude generated a wave of criticism so he finally decided to send a mission to the southern country to investigate the allegations of cover-up and destruction of evidence. After reading the report, the Pope changed his mind and admitted that his perception of the scandal was erroneous, causing the fall of the Chilean ecclesiastical leadership.
Latin American Post | José María González Alonso
Translated from "El hundimiento de la Iglesia chilena: Renuncian todos los obispos del país"