This is an important story, and this article by Gerard O’Connell in America magazine is a well-written assessment of the matter.
Pope Francis received much criticism when, during his January trip to Chile, he charged with calumny those who had accused Bishop Juan Barros of covering up the abuse committed by his protege, Fr. Fernando Karadima, sanctioned by the Vatican in 2011 for sexually abusing minors. Three men have said that Bishop Barros was present in the room when Fr. Karadima kissed and fondled them. At the time of his January trip to Chile, Pope Francis said, “I feel bound to express my pain and shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some of the ministers of the church.” However, regarding Bishop Barros, the Holy Father said, “The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny.” Pope Francis later said that his choice of words was hurtful and apologized.
In February, Pope Francis sent Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta to Chile to investigate the scandal of abuse in Chile and to interview victims. Archbishop Scicluna has years of experience investigating crimes of abuse. His 2300-page report to Francis apparently held nothing back on the scope of the crisis.
After receiving and reviewing the report, Pope Francis wrote a three-page letter admitting “serious mistakes” on his part in addressing the scandal and asking for forgiveness. The pope said, “I fell into serious errors in the evaluation and perception of the situation, due especially to the lack of true and balanced information.” It seems Archbishop Scicluna’s report provided the “true and balanced information” Francis needed to make a proper judgment on the matter. Francis went on to say, “From here on, I ask pardon of all those I have offended, and I hope to do so personally in the coming weeks, in the meetings that I will have with representatives of the persons interviewed.” The pope has called the entire hierarchy of the Church in Chile to a meeting with him in May. He has also invited the three accuser of Bishop Barros to meet with him in April.
Hopefully, measures will be taken to bring healing to victims of abuse, to remove from ministry all abusers, to prosecute abusers to the full-extend of the law with complete cooperation from the bishops and all others in the Church, and to adopt reforms to ensure that such abuse never takes place again. Broken human nature being what it is, I don’t know if we’ll ever get to the point where the number of new cases of abuse is zero. Still, the first priority of everyone involved is to do whatever is needed to prevent any child from ever being abused.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.