Chilean bishops are arriving in Rome ahead of an expected brow-beating next week from Pope Francis, who says he was misled about a bishop at the center of the Chilean church’s sex abuse scandal.
One top-ranked churchman is apparently not coming: Cardinal Javier Errazuriz, retired archbishop of Santiago, who sits on Francis’ kitchen cabinet. Abuse survivors have laid much of the blame for the scandal on Errazuriz, whom they accuse of discrediting victims and covering up abuse rather than punishing pedophiles.
Errazuriz was quoted by Chile’s La Tercera paper as saying he wasn’t coming for personal reasons.
The executive committee of the Chilean bishops conference said Thursday that the 30-plus bishops were coming with “humility and hope.” They praised Francis’ recent meetings with victims of the Reverend Fernando Karadima of Chile, saying his example “showed us the path that the Chilean church is called to follow.”
Francis had invited Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo to the Vatican so he could personally apologize for having discredited them during his January trip to Chile. Francis had said their accusations against a Karadima protege, Bishop Juan Barros, were “calumny” and demanded they present proof of his wrongdoing.
The men, who had frequented Karadima’s posh Santiago community when they were teens, say that Barros witnessed and ignored their abuse. He has denied their accusations, but twice offered to resign.
Francis twice rejected his resignation, after apparently being counseled that Barros was innocent. Francis hasn’t said who counseled him, but Errazuriz has admitted he didn’t initially believe accusations against Karadima, and in more recent emails he called Cruz a liar and a “serpent.”
Francis summoned the bishops to the Vatican last month, warning that he wanted to discuss short-, medium- and long-term reforms to the church. In the letter, he admitted he had made “grave errors in judgment” about the Barros case, but blamed a “lack of truthful and balanced information” for his missteps.
Francis did his about-face after receiving a 2,300-page report compiled by top Vatican investigators who traveled to Chile and interviewed 64 people — victims, priests and lay Catholics — about the scandal.