Pope Francis Unusually Isolated in Chilean Priest Sex Abuse Scandal


National Catholic Register, 22 January 2018

Chile’s bishops opposed the Holy Father in 2015 in private, and would not support him in 2018 in public.

How did a papal visit aimed at healing a suffering Church in Chile end up inflicting a serious wound on Pope Francis?

The papal visit to Chile was expected to be difficult, due to the effects of the sexual abuse crisis there. Yet that challenge has been dealt with before in other countries.

What happened in contrast in Chile was a genuine surprise. The Pope’s critics were vocal, as was expected. It was his abandonment by his allies that was the surprise, with enduring consequences.

The sexual abuse crisis in Chile is centered on the figure of Father Fernando Karadima, a well-known Chilean priest whose parish produced dozens of priests, and five bishops. In 2010, he was accused of years of sexual abuse of minors. A Vatican investigation found him guilty, and due to his advanced age, sentenced him to life of penance and prayer. The Chilean courts did not prosecute due to the statute of limitations, but declared their opinion of his guilt.

Three bishops who were from Father Karadima’s circle have been accused of covering up for their mentor. The Vatican maintains that, after investigation, no evidence has been found against them. Bishop Juan Barros, one of the three, was promoted from being the military bishop to the Diocese of Osorno in 2015. Protests against this were voluble, and his installation Mass had to be cut short due to violent demonstrators in the cathedral. Most of his priests boycotted his arrival, and the rest of the members of the Chilean episcopate kept their distance.

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