ROME – A Chilean bishop who’s acknowledged he was slow in investigating allegations of abuse and misconduct in his diocese resigned as president of the Chilean Church’s National Commission for the Prevention of Abuses.
The announcement was made by the Chilean bishops’ conference, which said on Saturday that it had accepted the resignation of Bishop Alejando Goic of Rancagua from the commission. At this point, he continues as the head of his diocese.
Together with most of Chile’s active bishops, Goic presented his resignation to Pope Francis mid-May. The prelates were summoned by the pontiff to Rome to discuss a crisis in the local Church, a product of decades of abuses and cover-ups and which began detonating in early 2015, when the pontiff appointed Bishop Juan Barros, accused of covering up for the country’s most notorious pedophile priest, to the southern diocese of Osorno.
In addition to the scandals that plague his diocese, Goic had already presented his resignation before arriving in Rome because he’s over 75, the age at which every bishop presents his resignation to the pope.
The two bishops who didn’t present their resignation to the pope are the military ordinariate, who depends on the army, and the bishop of Aysen, whose position depends not of the pope but the Vatican’s missionary office Propaganda Fide. However, both have said they’re open to being relieved at any moment.
It’s up to Francis to decide if he accepts the resignation of each individual bishop, and to date he hasn’t done so. However, according to a text the pope handed to the bishops, at least in some cases, there’s evidence of systematic cover-up, destroying evidence and a failure to protect children.
The announcement from the bishops’ conference said that “difficulties that have occurred in the diocese he leads have made this determination necessary.”
Over the past week, fourteen priests in Goic’s diocese were temporarily suspended, pending investigation. They are accused of being part of a group called “La Familia,” which practiced sexual behavior including, but not limited to, the abuse of minors.
Goic received allegations about the group two years ago, but it wasn’t until a news program investigated the allegations and broadcast them in recent weeks that the bishop took action. Last week, he publicly apologized for failing to promptly investigate a reported case of sexual abuse in his diocese.
“He has worked tirelessly, together with a select group of professionals, to adopt all the measures needed to eradicate from the life of the Church the abuse of minors and every kind of abuse of power,” the statement from the Chilean bishops on Goic’s resignation says.
Although resigning from the commission, Goic said he wants to dedicate himself fully to solving the crisis in his diocese, which prompted the bishops to say that “we understand that the present needs and difficulties that have occurred in the diocese that he shepherds have made this determination necessary.”
Also last week, Chilean media revealed that the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Santiago had resigned Jan. 2 after he reported himself for having abused someone.
Among other things, Father Óscar Muñoz Toledo was the man responsible for taking the statements of at least some clerical abuse victims, including those of Father Fernando Karadima, the country’s most notorious pedophile priest, who was found guilty by the Vatican in 2011.
After he reported himself, Muñoz was also banned from public priestly ministry, and an internal investigation was launched. A report was then sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which has responsibility for handling abuse cases.