Chilean bishop says mistakes were made in handling abuse cases

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Chilean bishop acknowledged the damage inflicted on survivors of clerical sex
abuse and the mishandling of cases by church leaders in the country.

“I am not saying that
perhaps we have made mistakes. We have made mistakes,” said Bishop Juan
Ignacio Gonzalez Errazuriz of San Bernardo.

Bishop Gonzalez, along with
Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos Perez of Santiago, met with journalists May 14
on the eve of a three-day meeting between Pope Francis and 34 Chilean bishops.

The bishops are
meeting at the Vatican May 15-17 to discuss with Pope Francis their handling of
clerical sex abuse allegations.

Echoing Pope Francis’ April
11 letter to the Chilean bishops, Bishop Ramos told journalists that the
bishops felt “pain and shame” for the abuses committed.

“Receiving information
that sexual abuses occurred in our community left many people in shock, because
it is something that is unacceptable, intolerable, unjustifiable from every
point of view,” Bishop Ramos said.

When asked whether they
intend to follow the pope’s lead and ask forgiveness of survivors, Bishop Ramos
said attending to the wounds inflicted upon “victims is a great, moral

“As Jesus said, we must
ask forgiveness seven times 70. We are completely willing to ask forgiveness,
but we also hope that forgiveness (can) be restorative,” he said.

Recently, three Chilean abuse
survivors who met with Pope Francis strongly criticized the bishops, accusing
them of misinforming the pope on the reality of sexual abuse in the country.

Pope Francis invited Juan
Carlos Cruz, Jose Andres Murillo and James Hamilton to stay at the Domus
Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican residence where he lives, and to meet with him
individually April 27-29. They met him again as a group April 30.

Briefing journalists May 2 on
their meeting with the pope, the survivors read a joint statement saying that
for “10 years we have been treated as enemies, because we fight against
sexual abuse and cover-up in the church.”

Cruz said he told the pope
how he was demonized by Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired
archbishop of Santiago, and his successor, Cardinal Riccardo Ezzati, in a
leaked email between the two prelates. Although media reports
initially reported Cardinal Errazuriz would not attend the meeting, he boarded
a plane May 13 from Santiago and landed in Rome.

Cruz said he told Pope Francis “how these
two men lacked respect toward a person, which was known because they did the
same to Jimmy (Hamilton) and Jose (Murillo). They called me a ‘serpent,’ they
called me everything. I told the Holy Father, and he said he was hurt,”
Cruz said.

When asked whether they also
received an apology from the bishops of Chile, Cruz said: “Pope Francis
asked forgiveness for himself and on behalf of the universal church. The
bishops of Chile don’t know how to ask for forgiveness.”

Bishop Gonzalez told
journalists that victims must remain at the center of the upcoming discussions.
He also said that he met with countless victims in his diocese and “knew
the survivors that met with the Holy Father.”

Shortly after the press
conference, Cruz tweeted: “I’ve never seen him before in my life. The
truth according to the bishops of Chile is very different from what we all have

“My conclusion regarding
the press conference of the Chilean bishops — (Bishops) Ramos and Gonzalez —
is that they are great actors, who see a reality and a truth totally different
from what common people see, and they should return to the planet from where
they came,” Cruz said in a follow-up tweet.

Several Chilean bishops
arrived earlier in the day at Rome’s Fiumicino airport for the upcoming meeting
with Pope Francis.

Upon his arrival, Bishop
Christian Caro Cordero of Puerto Montt told journalists: “I wouldn’t say
that there is a church in crisis. I would say that there is a serious problem
that must be confronted, but not a church in crisis.”

However, in a statement May
12, the Vatican press office said Pope Francis was concerned by the
“circumstances and extraordinary challenges posed by abuses of power —
sexual and of conscience — that have occurred in the last decades.”

The pope “considers it
necessary to profoundly examine the causes and consequences, as well as the
mechanisms that in some cases led to a cover-up and serious omissions regarding
the victims,” the Vatican said.

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