Pope de­frocks 2 Chile ex-bish­ops in abuse scan­dal

Gulf Times - - LATIN AMERICA -

Pope Fran­cis has de­frocked two Chilean for­mer bish­ops for al­legedly sex­u­ally abus­ing mi­nors, the Vat­i­can said yes­ter­day, af­ter a meet­ing be­tween the Pon­tiff and Chile’s pres­i­dent.

The de­ci­sion to ex­pel for­mer arch­bishop Francisco Jose Cox Huneeus and for­mer bishop Marco An­to­nio Or­denes Fer­nan­dez — the lat­est heads to roll in a coun­try hit hard by the cleric abuse scan­dal — is not open to ap­peal.

Both were stripped of their priest­hood “as a con­se­quence of overt acts of abuse against mi­nors”, it said.

The an­nounce­ment came a day af­ter the Pope ac­cepted the res­ig­na­tion of Wash­ing­ton DC arch­bishop Don­ald Wuerl, who has been blamed for not do­ing enough to deal with pae­dophile priests.

Yes­ter­day’s de­frock­ing was “an ex­tremely un­usual, if not un­prece­dented” move, wrote Ines San Martin, a Vat­i­can ex­pert work­ing for spe­cial­ist Catholic web­site Crux.

De­frock­ing is con­sid­ered the Church’s harsh­est penalty for priests, bar­ring the of­fender from ex­er­cis­ing any cler­i­cal du­ties at all, even in pri­vate.

Scores of new cases in­volv­ing the abuse of mi­nors by priests have come to light in Chile, deep­en­ing a cri­sis in the Ro­man Catholic Church that has also em­broiled Pope Fran­cis.

Fran­cis yes­ter­day met Chilean Pres­i­dent Se­bas­tian Pin­era at the Vat­i­can for talks on the “dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion” in Chile.

They dis­cussed “the painful scourge of abuse of mi­nors, re­it­er­at­ing the ef­fort of all in col­lab­o­ra­tion to com­bat and pre­vent the per­pe­tra­tion of such crimes and their con­ceal­ment”, the Vat­i­can said.

The lead­ers “shared the hope that the church could live a true re­birth,” Pin­era said in a state­ment.

A to­tal of 167 bish­ops, priests and lay mem­bers of the church in Chile are now un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for sex­ual crimes com­mit­ted since 1960.

Fran­cis has al­ready apol­o­gised re­peat­edly to Chileans over the scan­dal, ad­mit­ting the church failed “to lis­ten and re­act” to the al­le­ga­tions, but has vowed to “re­store jus­tice”.

In May, the Ar­gentina-born Pon­tiff ac­cepted the res­ig­na­tion of five Chilean bish­ops fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions of abuse and re­lated coverups.

Fran­cis him­self be­came mired in the scan­dal when, dur­ing a trip to Chile in Jan­uary, he de­fended 61-year-old bishop Juan Bar­ros, who was ac­cused of cover­ing up abuse by pae­dophile pri­est Fer­nando Karadima in the 1980s and 1990s.

Karadima was sus­pended for life by the Vat­i­can over al­le­ga­tions of child mo­lesta­tion. Fran­cis even­tu­ally ac­cepted he was wrong to de­fend Bar­ros and sub­se­quently ac­cepted his res­ig­na­tion.

Juan Car­los Cruz, one of Karadima’s vic­tims, tweeted yes­ter­day that it was “a good day for the sur­vivors of th­ese mon­sters”.

“Now it’s up to the Chilean jus­tice to do some­thing!”

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