Sunday, 14 October 2018

Catholic Abuse News - The Bloodletting Continues

Pope Francis and President Sebastian Piñera in the Vatican
Pope defrocks two Chilean bishops over child abuse claims | BBC.

Yesterday, Pope Francis, in an attempt to be seen to be doing something about the new explosion of sexual abuse scandals to hit the Catholic Church, summarily sacked or 'defrocked' two Chilean bishops without the right of appeal.

They are Francisco José Cox Huneeus, archbishop emeritus of La Serena, Chile, member of the Institute of Schoenstatt Fathers, and Marco Antonio Órdenes Fernández, bishop emeritus of Iquique, Chile. According to the Vatican press release, the defrockings were "as a consequence of manifest abuse of minors". The announcement came after Pope Francis met Chilean president Sebastian Piñera in the Vatican.

These two bishops were not amongst the thirty-four Chilean bishops who tendered their resignations following police raids and a 2,300-page report alleging that senior Church officials in Chile had failed to act on abuse claims and in some cases hid them, commissioned by the Pope. Although they carry the title 'Bishop' they have no diocesan responsibilities.

Órdenes is believed to be living somewhere in Chile and Cox has returned to Germany where his order the Schoenstatt Fathers, have confirmed that he is under an Vatican investigation for child abuse in Germany in 2004.

The Pope has now accepted seven of the thirty-four Chilean resignations, the latest, announced last month, of Bishop Carlos Eduardo Pellegrín Barrera of the diocese of San Bartolomé de Chillán, and Bishop Cristián Enrique Contreras Molina of the diocese of San Felipe. Other bishops have been appointed as Apostolic Administrators to lead the diocese until further notice. These resignations now mean some 20% of Chile's Catholic diocese have lost their leaders and these may well not be the last.

Last month, Pope Francis also defrocked Father Fernando Karadima, an 88-year-old highly influential Santiago priest who was accused of sexually abusing teenage boys over many years. Karadima was at the centre of a storm last January when, after a visit to Chile during which Pope Francis was met with widespread protests concerning sexual abuses and the inactivity of the then Archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Errázuriz Ossa, and of Bishop Juan Barros Madrid who was alleged to have been present when Karadima was abusing one of his victims. Francis appeared to defend Barros and attack Karadim's victims by blurting out:

The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I’ll speak. There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?

The ensuing outrage prompted Pope Francis to launch the investigation.

Chilean civil justice has investigated 119 allegations of sexual abuse or cover-ups involving 167 church workers including Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, Archbishop of Santiago.

The announcement came the day after the Pope accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as the fall-out from the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report continued. There is now speculation that former Cardinal McCarrick could also face defrocking as Francis struggles to be seen to be taking the deluge of sex abuse scandals seriously.

In addition to the Chile and Pennsylvania problems, there is a major scandal in German where a report commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference, leaked to Der Spiegel, has reported that 1,670 clerics and priests had sexually abused 3,677 minors, mostly males, in Germany over a 70-year period. Most of the victims were boys, and more than half were aged 13 or younger.

There is still no response from the Vatican concerning the allegations by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano that Pope Francis rescinded restrictions placed on Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict XIV because of allegations of his abuse of seminarians and children, despite knowing about the allegations and so was complicit in his abuses. These allegations have been given substance by a letter from Father Boniface Ramsey. The problem Francis has is that he either drops Pope Benedict in it by denying that McCarrisk was ever placed under any restrictions despite the allegations against him, or he admits he lifted those restrictions allowing McCarrick to carry on, knowing about his crimes.

The dilemma facing Pope Francis now is how far does this bloodletting go, given the investigations now underway in other US states and the presidents this would set. How many New York, Minnesota and Massachusetts clerics are to be similarly defrocked when their abuses and complicity in cover-ups are revealed?

Pope Francis has now summoned the national heads of the Catholic Church from around the world to a three-day conference next February to discuss the protection of minors. One wonders whether many of the present ones will still be in post by February. It is unlikely that the obvious solution of not ordaining any more Catholic priests, so giving them the spurious resectability that gives them unsupervised access to vulnerable people will be considered.

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