In January, Pope Francis sparked outrage when he dismissed reports of sexual abuse in Chile. But now, after further investigation, the head of the Catholic Church is expressing regret over the way he handled the reports of abuse.
“I have made serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation, especially because of the lack of truthful and balanced information,” he wrote in a letter to the Chilean bishops. He also expressed his desire to meet with the bishops to discuss how to further handle the “the conclusions and the aforementioned visit and my conclusions.”
Although Pontifex has always been sympathetic toward the victims of sexual abuse in the Chilean diocese (he did make a special trip to Chile to meet and pray with abuse victims), this response is in stark contrast to the pope’s earlier mind on the controversy.
When allegations first arose that Chilean Bishop Juan Barros had covered up the abuses of a priest named Fernando Karadima, the Pope Francis called the accusations “calumny” (that is, slander) and sternly reprimanded those who were raising protest to the priest’s impunity. He called the concerns about the accused priest and bishop “stupid.”
The holy father said that there was no evidence that Barros was covering up a scandal, and refused to speak against the bishop until sufficient evidence was brought forward—this in spite of the fact that a Chilean judge and the Vatican had already verified that Karadimas’ victims’ testimonies were valid.
From Religion News Service:
Fortunately, Francis was sufficiently concerned about the situation that he appointed Malta Archbishop Charles Scicluna to look into it. Scicluna, whose investigations have brought down sexual predators Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland and Marcial Maciel Degollado of the Legionaries of Christ, has now delivered an apparently devastating report on the Barros affair.
The Pope says the result of further investigation causes him “pain and shame.” His letter invites the Chilean bishops to Rome to “to re-establish ecclesial communion in Chile, with the goal of repairing as much as possible the scandal and re-establishing justice” (h/t Religion News Service).