Vatican team investigating abuse cover-ups to return to Chile

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — To promote healing after reports of sexual abuse and cover-ups, Pope
Francis will send Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Father Jordi
Bertomeu Farnos back to Chile.  

Both will visit the Diocese of Osorno “with the aim of advancing the process of
reparation and healing of abuse victims,” the Vatican said in a statement May

Abuse survivors have alleged that Bishop Juan Barros of
Osorno — then a priest — had witnessed their abuse by his mentor, Father
Fernando Karadima. In 2011, Father Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer
and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.

Archbishop Scicluna, who is president of a board of review handling abuse
cases within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Father
Bertomeu, an official of the doctrinal congregation, will depart “in the
next few days,” the Vatican said.

The Vatican also announced that “the pope will send the
president of the Chilean bishops’ conference a letter written personally by him and addressed to
all the people of God, as he had promised the bishops.”

During his visit to Chile in January, the pope sparked
controversy when he pledged his support for Bishop Barros and said: “The
day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one
piece of evidence against him. It is calumny.”

He later apologized to the victims and admitted that his
choice of words wounded many.

A short time later, the pope sent Archbishop Scicluna and
Father Bertomeu to Chile to listen to people with information about Bishop

Not all of the 64 witnesses spoke about Father Karadima and
Bishop Barros; several of them gave testimony about abuse alleged to have
occurred at a Marist Brothers’ school.

Their investigation resulted in a 2,300-page report that was
given to the pope.

After reading their report, Pope Francis apologized for
underestimating the seriousness of the sexual abuse crisis and acknowledged he
made “serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation,
especially due to a lack of truthful and balanced information.”

After a “careful reading” of the testimonies, “I
believe I can affirm that all the testimonies collected speak in a brutal way,
without additives or sweeteners, of many crucified lives and, I confess, it has
caused me pain and shame,” the pope said in an April 11 letter to the
bishops of Chile.

He also summoned the bishops to Rome May 15-17, which
resulted in most of the Chilean bishops offering their resignations to the

In a document leaked by Chilean news channel Tele 13 before the
meeting with the bishops, Pope Francis 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.”

The pope also 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, Pope Francis 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.”

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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