Chilean bishops resign en masse after Scicluna report into sex abuse cover-up

The resignations, the first known time in history that an entire national bishops' conference resigns en masse over scandal, comes hot on the heels of a 2,300-page Vatican report penned by Archbishop Charles Scicluna

Archbishop Charles Scicluna (right) was appointed special investigator in the Chilean sex abuse scandal
Archbishop Charles Scicluna (right) was appointed special investigator in the Chilean sex abuse scandal

Every Chilean bishop offered to resign Friday over a sex abuse and cover-up scandal, in the biggest shake-up ever in the Catholic Church's long-running abuse saga.

The bishops announced at the end of an emergency summit with Pope Francis that all 31 active bishops and three retired ones in Rome had handed in their resignation.

Francis can accept the resignations one by one, reject them or delay a decision.

The resignations, the first known time in history that an entire national bishops' conference resigns en masse over scandal, comes hot on the heels of a 2,300-page Vatican report penned by special investigator and Archbishop of Malta Charles Scicluna, into the Chilean scandal.

Francis accused the bishops of destroying evidence of sex crimes, pressuring investigators to minimize abuse accusations and showing "grave negligence" in protecting children from paedophile priests.

Francis said the entire Chilean church hierarchy was collectively responsible for "grave defects" in handling cases and the resulting loss of credibility that the Catholic Church has suffered.

The Chilean bishops said the contents of the document were "absolutely deplorable" and showed an "unacceptable abuse of power and conscience," as well as sexual abuse. They asked forgiveness to the victims, the pope and all Catholics and vowed to repair the damage.

Francis summoned the entire bishops' conference to Rome after admitting that he had made "grave errors in judgment" in the case of Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused by victims of Chilean priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, of witnessing and ignoring their abuse.

Based on Francis' footnotes, the Vatican investigation compiled by the Catholic Church's top abuse prosecutor, Archbishop Charles Scicluna and his aide, Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu, gave full credibility to the victims.

Francis, though, has also been implicated in the scandal, and in his document saying all Chilean bishops bore blame he added "and me first of all."

Francis first drew scorn from victims, ordinary Chileans and even members of his sex abuse advisory board by appointing Barros bishop of Osorno, Chile, in 2015. Francis further enraged Chileans and drew sharp rebuke from his top abuse adviser when, during a January trip to Chile, he said the accusations against Barros were "calumny" and said he was "certain" he was innocent.

After receiving the Scicluna-Bertomeu report, though, Francis did a volte-face, blaming a "lack of truthful and balanced information" about the case for his missteps, and invited the three main whistleblowers to the Vatican so he could apologize in person.

Francis said there was "grave negligence" in protecting children from paedophiles by bishops and religious superiors, a reference to the many cases of sexual abuse that have arisen in recent years within Chilean religious orders, including the Salesians, Franciscans and the Marist Brothers community.

Francis said he was also "perplexed and ashamed" by the report's evidence that there were "pressures exercised" on church officials tasked with investigating sex crimes "including the destruction of compromising documents on the part of those in charge of ecclesiastic archives."

 

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