He hasn’t yet taken office, but a newly announced auxiliary bishop of Santiago, Chile, is already in hot water over his remarks on the sex abuse crisis, women, and the Jewish community.
Las week, Pope Francis appointed Father Carlos Irarrazaval as one of two new auxiliaries in the capital Santiago, an archdiocese that’s been hard-hit by the clerical sexual abuse scandal, with two former archbishops being summoned by local prosecutors to give testimony after being accused of covering up cases of abuse.
Irarrazaval got into trouble on Thursday, just one day after his appointment, when speaking about the crisis he said that it’s time to look towards the future, because “stirring reheated rice is worthless,” meaning that there’s no benefit in continuing to “stir the pot” when it comes to the scandals in Chile.
This caused an uproar from the survivors of former priest Fernando Karadima, a celebrity priest who was later found guilty by the Vatican of sexual abuse and then later defrocked.
After a two decade battle, his victims finally won in court against the archdiocese, which was found to have failed to act properly when they first brought up the allegations against the infamous pedophiles.
Irarrazaval knows the Karadima case well: He’d been tapped to oversee the 40 priests who were directly formed by Karadima, many of whom are seen as victims of his abuses of power, conscience and even of a sexual nature; but some of them are also accused by their former seminary classmates as being abusers themselves.
But the bishop-elect didn’t stop there: The following day, in an interview with CNN Chile, he said that “since there was no woman seated at the table in the Last Supper” they had no role in the Church. According to Irarrazaval, this was a choice Jesus made, and not “for ideological reasons.”
“Jewish culture is chauvinistic even today,” he’d said a few seconds earlier. “If you see a Jew walking down the street, the woman is 10 steps behind, but Jesus Christ breaks this dynamic; Jesus Christ speaks with women – with the adulterous woman, with the Samaritan woman – Jesus Christ allows for women to care for him. Who did he choose to announce [his] resurrection? Magdalena, a woman.”
His comments contradict what Bishop Celestino Aos told Crux in an exclusive interview in Santiago two weeks ago, when he said that advancing the role of women in the Church is a priority for him, and that he didn’t see a reason for not appointing women as papal ambassadors in countries that have diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
Asked if he wanted to see women having a relevant role within the Church, Irarrazaval said that “it’s possible that women like to be backstage. Among all of us, we have to ensure they can do what they want to do. Obviously, Jesus Christ gave us some directions, and if we want to be the Church of Jesus Christ, we have to be faithful to Jesus Christ.”
After his remarks, James Hamilton, a Karadima survivor, said that it’s clear he’s not “fit for office.”
Juan Carlos Cruz, who together with Hamilton is one of three survivors of Karadima welcomed by Francis last year, said that “we’re in for a good start with the stupid comment from who will be the new auxiliary bishop of Santiago.”
The third survivor, Jose Andres Murillo, went to Twitter: “This is what we were missing: Spiritual chauvinism from the ‘new wave’ of bishops.”
Asked about his comment on “stirring reheated rice,” Irarrazaval said that his metaphor meant that “we have to touch bottom. Staying with what we already know … There’s nothing new there. What we have to do is get to the bottom of the situation to solve the problem and we need to learn from this to look forward.”
“The idea is this one,” he said. “Let’s look forward learning from the past and caring for the poor victims, whom we have to help to heal their wounds.”
Currently led by Bishop Celestino Aos, the Archdiocese of Santiago has been in turmoil since the allegations against Karadima arose in 2010.
The situation recently deteriorated even further when two of the city’s star priests were also found guilty of sexual abuse. Cristian Precht, removed from the priesthood last year, is accused of sexually abusing minors, while the late Jesuit Father Renato Poblete has been accused of abusing between 10 to 15 women.
The second auxiliary bishop for Santiago announced last week is Father Alberto Lorenzelli, an Argentinian raised in Italy, who’s been in Chile for the past five years. He is currently in Rome awaiting his episcopal consecration.
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma
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