ROME – Chile’s ongoing Catholic crisis remains fluid, with Pope Francis summoning another group of victims of clerical abuse to Rome, a cardinal accused of covering up those abuses continuing to claim he’s innocent, and yet another Prince of the Church who risks losing Chilean citizenship.
Here’s a rundown of the latest developments, after the Chilean bishops offered Francis their resignations en masse. During a summit meeting in Rome last week, the pontiff didn’t name names, but he did say there’s evidence that at least some covered up cases of clerical sexual abuse, mishandled accusations, failed to protect children, and destroyed damaging evidence.
The victims who’ll come to the Vatican speak up
On June 1-3 Pope Francis will welcome nine people, five of whom are priests, three of them victims of an “abusive system” imposed by Father Fernando Karadima in the parish of El Bosque.
Though it’s not clear which abuses Karadima perpetrated on each of them, he was found guilty by the Vatican in 2011 of sexually abusing minors, and also of abuse of power and conscience.
Three of the nine who will fly to Rome, Father Alejandro Vial Amunátegui, Father Eugenio De La Fuente and Father Francisco Astaburuaga Ossa, gave a press conference in Santiago on Wednesday to talk about the invitation, which they said “came directly from the pope.”
The nine will travel to Rome on Friday, have Mass with the pope on Saturday morning and meet with him both as a group and individually. They will be staying in the Santa Marta, the hotel within Vatican grounds where the pope lives.
This will be the second time in a little over a month that Francis has welcomed victims of Karadima.
Juan Carlos Cruz, one of Karadima’s victims who was with the pope in late April, said on Twitter that he knows the priests who are going to the Vatican and defined them as “extraordinary” and that they “deserve this and much more.”
Astaburuaga Ossa, who accompanied survivors Cruz and James Hamilton during the past 20 years, said the pope’s invitation is “a consolation and hope,” even more so because it came after the pope had met with the victims.
Speaking of Cruz, Hamilton and Andres Murillo, the Karadima victims who were in Rome, de la Fuente said that the three priests who were speaking to the press know them and are “tremendously thankful for them, their testimony, their courage and friendship. They have helped the Church a lot.”
Though they refused to give details of what they will tell Francis, they did agree with the pope’s assessment that measures in the “short, medium and long term” are needed to solve the “structural crisis” of the Catholic Church in Chile.
“We hope our experience will give a voice to those who have been abused and those who have accompanied victims,” De la Fuente said.
Vial said that his wish is to come to meet the pope and give him suggestions so that there are no more victims of abuse.
“The absolute inexistence of [abuse] is impossible, but reducing it to the minimum is what we hope for,” he said.
A cardinal tries to defend himself [again]
Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, emeritus Archbishop of Santiago and a member of Pope Francis’s “C9” council of cardinal advisers, published a letter in one of Chile’s newspapers, La Segunda, on Tuesday. In it, he responded to a story from last week, the headline of which was “What to do with Errázuriz, [Cardinal Ricardo] Ezzati and [Archbishop Ivo] Scapolo.”
The three clerics have been accused by victims of Chile’s most notorious pedophile priest of not providing Francis with accurate information.
Furthermore, both Errázuriz and Ezzati, currently the archbishop of Santiago, have been accused of covering up for Karadima, and his victims want to see both cardinals stand trial for it.
According to Errázuriz, the story from Friday the 18th spreads “falsehoods and defamations,” which led him to write a letter to the editor of the paper, in “respect of the truth and the readers.”
Regarding the accusations that he misinformed the pope on the case of Bishop Juan Barros, whom Francis transferred to the southern diocese of Osorno in 2015, the cardinal said that it hadn’t been him. Accusations arose in April, when the pope sent a letter to Chile’s bishops saying that he’d made grave errors of judgement, in part because he didn’t have accurate information.
In his letter, Errázuriz also claims that he asked the Vatican to lift the Church’s statute of limitations so that Karadima would be tried, which shouldn’t have taken much persuasion. The 2001 document Sacramentorum Sanctitatis tutela issued by St. Pope John Paul II authorized the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to waive the statute of limitations on a case by case basis. In practice, the congregation has done that for virtually every case it’s handled since.
Yet allegations against Karadima were presented to the diocese of Santiago in 2003, 2005 and 2009, and it wasn’t until early 2011 that the Vatican found him guilty and sentenced him to a life of penitence and prayer.
Errázuriz also said that the pope told him he had informed him correctly, something the cardinal also told a reporter who questioned him in Rome last week.
A campaign to take a cardinal’s citizenship away
Ezzati, who’s over 75 and had presented his resignation to the pope even before he arrived in Rome, was born in Campiglia dei Beici, Italy. In 2006, Chilean law 20.100 granted him citizenship as a recognition for the “fruitful and valuable work” he’d done in the country.
In just three days, a new online campaign on Change.org collected over 3,000 signatures to take that citizenship away, saying that every bishop – “those accused of abuse but also those who covered up” — should be accountable. Among those backing the proposal are two members of Chile’s chamber of deputies.
The case against a convicted pedophile priest, reopened in the Vatican
Father John O’Reilly, a member of the Legionaries of Christ, founded by pedophile Mexican Father Marcial Maciel, was found guilty by Chilean courts in 2014 of sexually abusing minors.
He was convicted of molesting a pre-teen girl between 2007 and 2012, while he worked as the spiritual guide at the Cumbres school located in the affluent neighborhood of Las Condes.
Chile’s justice system condemned him to four years of probation, which will be up in seven months. When his sentence is up, he will be deported back to Ireland.
Despite the 2014 sentence, in April 2018 he insisted he’s innocent.
News reports coming from Chile say that now, almost four years after the sentence, the judicial vicar of the Archdiocese of Santiago, Father Jaime Ortiz de Lazcano, is heading a new canonical investigation against the priest. The family that made the allegations against O’Reilly has already testified again, and the new reports will be sent to the Vatican.