NEWS:  May 29, 2018
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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães
THE PANTOMIME OF CHILE'S PEDOPHILE CRISIS – The rare and dramatic resignation of all 34 Bishops of Chile on May 18, 2018, in response to accusations of cover-up for pedophilia requests an explanation. I will divide this theatrical tragedy into acts.

Pope Francis claiming Bishop Barros is innocent

"There is not one single proof against Bishop Barros"

Act One – The story starts with Francis’ visit to Chile. On January 18, the day he was arriving for his last Mass, he approached some Catholics who greeted him. One of them asked the Pope why he supports Bishop Juan Barros of the city of Osorno. In fact, as early as 1980 Barros was charged with accusations of covering-up for the notorious sexual abuses of Fr. Fernando Karadima.

The Barros’ nomination in 2015 has caused a lot of turmoil in Chile (here), since the Vatican had plenty of evidence of his past cover-up for Fr. Karadima, a convicted pedophile. This case was so well-documented that, already in 2001, the Vatican had forbidden Karadima to be in contact with his former parishioners. This priest was further sentenced in 2011 to “a life of prayer and penitence” by an ecclesiastical tribunal. (Cf. CiperChile, May 14, 2018)

So then, during that casual conversation a person asked Francis why he had named Barros as Bishop of Osorno. The Pope became visibly irritated and answered: "The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will speak. There is not one single proof against him. Everything is calumny. Is it clear?" You can watch the question-answer episode in this clip.

Such an absurd and imperative denial of a fact that was public knowledge raised great indignation among Catholics, which was widely broadcast by the media.

This papal declaration was a huge mistake on many fronts:
  • It frontally defied the truth, because there were testimonies of various victims attesting to the opposite of what Francis affirmed;

  • The Pope's words showed a blatant lack of consideration for Chilean Catholics, who were making a lot of effort to receive him well;

  • The general clerical pedophilia policy of the Vatican was strongly harmed by that papal stance.
Even Card. Sean O’Malley, the Francis’ top auxiliary to resolve cases of pedophile abuse by priests, issued a clear reproach of that papal answer in Chile.

So, Francis’ mistake was unanimously reproved.

This mistake was aggravated by the fact that, in the Pope’s speech after arriving in Chile on January 16, he had apologized for the errors of the Bishops on handling the pedophilia crisis. Two days later, on January 18, by publicly covering for a notorious protector of a convicted pedophile priest, he proved that his first apology was not sincere. His mea culpa looked like a political move to appease Catholic public opinion in Chile.

Therefore, the prestige of Francis took a profound plunge.

Act Two – Given the dark shadow that fell over Pope Bergoglio’s public image, he had to find a scapegoat in order to shake off that shameful reputation.

Arch. Charles Scicluna

Arch. Scicluna, center, in Chile meets with Bishops

It is from this perspective that I understand his decision to send two papal delegates in March 2018 to Chile and New York – respectively Arch. Charles Scicluna and Msgr. Jorge Farnós – to meet with Chilean victims of sexual abuse as well as religious authorities, and report their conclusions to him. The result was a document of 2,300 pages.

Acting as if this were the first time he had received objective data on the whole matter, on April 8, 2018, Bergoglio wrote a letter to the Chilean Bishops telling them that his delegates “had felt overwhelmed by the pain of so many victims of serious abuses of conscience and power and, in particular, of the acts of sexual abuse committed against minors by various consecrated people in your country, acts which, denied at the time, robbed them of their innocence.”

He also added that “all the statements collected speak in a stark manner, without additives or sugarcoating, of many crucified lives, and I confess that this causes me sorrow and shame.”

So, Francis, now the defender of the innocent, weeping for the crucified lives that he never suspected could exist, wanted to repair the evil done without his approval.

This new role of our hero did not fit, however, with reality. As a matter of fact, before his memorable gaffe, in the mentioned speech (January 16) at the start of his visit to Chile, Francis had acknowledged the abuse and made an apology. He said:

“Here I feel bound to express the pain and shame I feel over the irreparable harm caused to children by some ministers of the Church.”

And he added: “I am one with my brother Bishops, for it is right to ask for forgiveness and make every effort to support the victims, even as we commit ourselves to ensuring that such things do not happen again.” (Washington Post, January 16, 2018)

Now then, if in January the Pope was aware of all that pain and presented himself in solidarity with the Bishops, then why in April was he trying to appear shocked after reading the report of his delegates? Without doubt, his statements in his April letter to the Chilean Bishops are not convincing. They appear quite bogus, nothing more than a theatrical act.

Nonetheless, in that same letter to the Bishops, when Francis stated that the abuses were “denied at the time,” he was pointing at those guilty of that crime. Denied by whom? By the Chilean Bishops, of course. In January he had said: “I am one with my brother Bishops.” In April, he accused the Bishops of denying to him the reports about the abuse. Thus, our hero becomes schizophrenic… He plays two different roles.

After his accusation against the Bishops, Bergoglio had another trick up his sleeve: He invited three of the victims of sexual abuse to stay in Casa Santa Marta as his personal guests. After several meetings with the Pope they reported their conversations to the press. One of them, Juan Carlos Cruz, praised Francis and then blamed the Chilean Bishops for covering up and not properly informing the Pope about the abuse.

In his letter to the Prelates, Bergoglio summoned the Chilean Bishops to a meeting at the Vatican to discuss the topic.

Act Three – All my life I have had Chilean friends and I consider Chileans among the most politicized and diplomatically skillful peoples that I know. I can see that it did not take long for the Chilean Bishops to realize the game being played by the Argentine Pope. They also realized that Francis urgently needed to blame them to clear up his tarnished public figure.

Pope Francis and all the bishops of Chile

Francis meeting in Rome with all the Chilean Bishops, who later present all their resignations

Chilean bishops announcing a mass resignation
So, what did they do? On the last day of the three-day meeting at the Vatican to evaluate the pedophilia crisis, they agreed to present their resignation together. Another beautiful theatrical scene meant to impress the public.

As far as I know, the text of the Bishops' resignation is not accessible to the public.

So then, let me imagine, those 34 Bishops – recognizing their past faults and repentant for them, dilacerated for having bruised the heart of their dearest Holy Father, in a manifestation of sublime solidarity with their brother Bishops, some perhaps guiltier than others – altogether present their resignations : “Holy Father, we are no longer worthy of leading our flocks. Reduce us to nothing, send us away as hermits in the desert, name other Bishops better than us.” The drama draws near its apotheosis…

Independent of the drama's beauty, the political motive for this collective resignation is that it obliges the Pope not to accept it. The whole of the Chilean Bishops cannot be dismissed because it would leave the Catholic Church in Chile without a Hierarchy, which means without government. This cannot happen.

Thus, to the brutal move of the Argentine Pope blaming the Chilean Bishops for not keeping him properly informed, the slippery Chilean Bishops replied by placing Bergoglio in checkmate: Either you must punish all of us together or you have to change your game and face the consequences of your own mistakes.

Besides, it seems to me unfair for Francis to blame the Chilean Bishops and leave the Vatican unpunished when the latter knew perfectly about the wrongdoings of Bishop Barros in covering for Fr. Karadima. To be just, he should punish both. Actually, in strict justice, he should also punish himself, since it is obvious that he also is covering up many pedophile cases (here, here, here and here).

Therefore, in final analysis, the spectacular and dramatic act of the Chilean Bishops in reality appears to be asking for the resignation of Francis. This seems to be why it is taking a while for the Argentine Pope to find a way out of this well-placed trap.

Let us wait for the next episode of this political-thespian tragedy…