Pope begins purge in Chilean church over sex abuse scandal

Pope Francis recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, June 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis accepted the resignation Monday of the bishop at the center of Chile’s clerical sex abuse scandal and two others, launching a purge of a Catholic Church that has lost its credibility under an avalanche of accusations of abuse and cover-up.

A Vatican statement said Francis had accepted the resignations of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, Bishop Gonzalo Duarte of Valparaiso and Bishop Cristian Caro of Puerto Montt. Of the three, only the 61-year-old Barros is below the retirement age of 75.

Francis named temporary leaders for each of the dioceses.

Barros has been at the center of Chile’s growing scandal ever since Francis appointed him bishop of Osorno in 2015 over the objections of the local faithful, his own sex abuse prevention advisers and some of Chile’s other bishops. They questioned Barros’ suitability to lead given he had been a top lieutenant of Chile’s most notorious predator priest and had been accused by victims of witnessing and ignoring their abuse.

Barros denied the charge, but he joined 30 of Chile’s other active bishops in offering their resignations to Francis at an extraordinary Vatican summit last month. Francis had summoned Chile’s church leaders to Rome after realizing he had made “grave errors in judgment” about Barros, whom he had defended strongly during his troubled visit to Chile in January.

RELATED: Chile’s bishops resign en masse over sex abuse cover-up

Barros’ removal, which had been expected, was met with praise by abuse survivors and Catholics in Osorno, who warned, though, that more resignations and actions must follow to heal the devastation wrought by the scandal.

“A new day has begun in Chile’s Catholic Church!” tweeted Juan Carlos Cruz, the abuse survivor who denounced Barros for years and pressed for the Vatican to take action.

“I’m thrilled for all those who have fought to see this day,” he said. “The band of delinquent bishops … begins to disintegrate today.”

RELATED: Chile victims of clergy sex abuse praise talks with pope

Francis realized he had misjudged the Chilean situation after meeting with Cruz and reading the 2,300-page report compiled by two leading Vatican investigators about the depth of Chile’s scandal, which has devastated the credibility of the church in a once overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country in the pope’s native Latin America.

Those two investigators, Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Spanish Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu, are heading back to Chile on Tuesday to begin what the Vatican has said is a “healing” mission to Osorno.

By accepting Barros’ resignation on the eve of their arrival, Francis is essentially giving Scicluna and Bertomeu a hand in helping to heal the divisions in a diocese where Barros was never fully accepted as bishop.

But by also accepting the resignations of the two other bishops, Francis is making clear that the troubles in Chile’s church do not rest on Barros’ shoulders alone, or on those of the more than 40 other priests and three other bishops trained by the Rev. Fernando Karadima.

RELATED: Pope admits ‘grave errors’ in Chile abuse case

The Vatican in 2011 sentenced Karadima, a powerful preacher close to Chile’s elite, to a lifetime of penance and prayer for his sex crimes. But the Scicluna-Bertomeu report exposed a far bigger scandal that has implicated several religious orders, including priests and brothers in the Franciscans, Legion of Christ, Marist Brothers and Salesian orders.

It also exposed evidence that the Chilean hierarchy systematically covered up and minimized abuse cases, destroying evidence of sex crimes, pressuring church investigators to discredit abuse accusations and showing “grave negligence” in protecting children from pedophile priests.

Those findings, which leaked to the media while the Chilean bishops were at the Vatican, have opened a Pandora’s Box of new accusations that recently led Francis to become the first pope to refer to a “culture of abuse and cover-up” in the Catholic Church.

The biggest new scandal involved revelations of a gay priest sex ring in the Rancagua diocese of the bishop who headed the Chilean church’s sex abuse prevention commission. To date 14 priests in Rancagua have been suspended and the bishop resigned as head of the commission after admitting he was slow to act on accusations that a minor had been abused.

Juan Carlos Claret, spokesman for a group of Osorno lay Catholics who fiercely opposed Barros, said Francis’ acceptance of the resignation signaled “the end of the damage” that the pope himself had inflicted on the diocese by appointing Barros in the first place.

Claros said Barros’ exit was the “minimum condition” to begin a dialogue with the Vatican to try to rebuild peace in the diocese, and he called for a process to find “truth, justice and reparation” for the damage caused.

“Bishop Barros has ceased being bishop but he hasn’t stopped being a brother in the faith, and for this if he too wants to seek forgiveness he is called to take part and assume his responsibilities,” Claret said.

(AP writer Eva Vergara contributed from Santiago, Chile.)

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Nicole Winfield


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  • While the pope may be cleaning house, the fundamental flaws around the personnel policies and government of the Roman Church remain in tact. If it had a more congregational and open democratic style government with individual churches selecting their pastors and the congregational representatives electing bishops for a set term, there would be checks on scandal from becoming wide spread and swept under the rug. While anyone is capable of sexual abuse, the Roman Church should permit married and female pastors thus allowing a congregation to select from a wider pool of candidates and vet the individual thoroughly before filling a post.

    Sex scandals of all sorts have plagued the Roman church since the Dark Ages because of cover up and its unchecked power. It was a major issue in the era of the Reformation in Germany and northern Europe. Luther required converting Catholic priests with mistresses to marry their mistress before coming a priest or pastor in the Evangelical Church. Watch “The Keepers” on Netflix about the Baltimore Catholic Archdiocese.

  • This means absolutely nothing. Francis stepped in a big pile when he accused the victims of calumny and now three bishops (two of whom are past retirement age anyway) are going to pay the price for his screw-up.

    If Francis had paid attention before he appointed Barros in the first place, that would have meant something.
    If Francis had “accepted” Cardinal Law’s “resignation”, that would have meant something.
    If Francis had created an Abuse Tribunal with real teeth, as promised, this mess in Chile might have been prevented, and that would have meant something.
    If Francis had appointed as Prefect of the CDF someone who was not being charged in France with abuse cover-up, that would have meant something.

    In Pope Francis, we have just one more wolf giving us a bunch of happy-talk about sheep.

  • Re: “If it had a more congregational and open democratic style government with individual churches selecting their pastors and the congregational representatives electing bishops for a set term, there would be checks on scandal from becoming wide spread and swept under the rug.” 

    It might seem it should work this way, but in practice, it doesn’t. Not always, anyway. Abusers can, and sometimes do, take advantage of decentralized management structures to get away with a lot. It happened, for example, here in my home state of Connecticut: A convicted child molester ran a Baptist church for several years. 

    It’s not just about the management structure of a sect; it’s about the people who are within its management, and in how they go about managing it. Both centralized and decentralized organizations can be staffed by folks who’re willing to look the other way when one of their own is up to no good. Unfortunately there is no single, optimal organizational structure that can magically prevent abuse from happening. Looking for that sort of “magic bullet” is a fool’s errand. 

  • Your example of a Baptist Church is the polar opposite of the Roman hierarchy. There are more happy mediums that follow the lines offered by Observer Guy. Baptist churches are 100% locally run with no real organization to which it answers. Yes, there are local associations and state conventions, but they have no power other than to expel a congregation from membership in the group. They have no control of what occurs in any congregation. Baptist congregations ordain the clergy, many of which are lucky to have a high school diploma.

  • Yes, it’s the polar opposite. That’s my point. As I said, there is no single form of management structure which makes rampant abuse impossible. It’s up to the people within management to stop it — but first, they have to be willing to do so. In other words … it’s not about the structure, it’s about the people. 

  • “Francis had accepted the resignations of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, Bishop Gonzalo Duarte of Valparaiso and Bishop Cristian Caro of Puerto Montt.”

    A beginning. But only a beginning. As the article makes clear, there is a larger problem than just Barros and Karadima. There is also the “… gay priest sex ring in the Rancagua diocese of the bishop who headed the Chilean church’s sex abuse prevention commission.” That is Bishop Goic, who is 78 years old and who has now resigned as head of the sex abuse prevention commission for Chile. The bishops inaction has now been exposed and he has suspended 14, 15, or 16 priests (news reports vary) out of the 68 he has in the diocese. Read the storie in LaStampa here: . There is also a story in CruxNow.

    The article also makes clear that the problem exists not just in Rancagua and not just with diocesan priests.

    When is someone in the Vatican going to pull together what has been learned in investigations in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, UK, Australia, some other European countries, and now this preliminary investigation in Chile – and recognize the systemic problem of sexual abuse and its cover-up within the world-wide Catholic Church? Why is The Vatican still being surprised and when will they really become pro-active rather than re-active?

    A salute to Pope Francis for being the first one to publicly say he was wrong, he did not listen, he made a bad decision – the first to admit that the Vatican is implicated in the mismanagement of the sexual abuse scandal. Now, really look at what is in the culture, the laws, the procedures of the Catholic Church that has made bishops all over the world act the same way, cover-up abuse, fail to bring in the civil keepers of the law to deal with what are not just sins but are also crimes. Bishops have not just a responsibility to Rome – they also have a responsibility to the governing authorities in the cities, provinces, nations in which they live. Can they expect Catholic people to live up to civic responsibilities when they don’t?

  • The biggest new scandal involved revelations of a gay priest sex ring in the Rancagua diocese of the bishop who headed the Chilean church’s sex abuse prevention commission. To date 14 priests in Rancagua have been suspended and the bishop resigned as head of the commission after admitting he was slow to act on accusations that a minor had been abused.

    I have a problem calling a pedophile sex ring a “gay priest sex ring” just because the perpetrators of the abuse and their victims both happen to be male. That tars a whole group of people who are not child molesters unfairly. No one would ever think to describe a sex ring in which underage girls are delivered to older men a “straight sex ring.” Everyone would think that notion was completely ludicrous. Yet it took me to point out this glaring, harmful error here. Subtle homophobia strikes again, seemingly innocent, as always. Death by a thousand cuts, just as it has been since time immemorial.

  • You are right to point out the problem of identifying a group of pedophiles as a “gay priest sex ring.” I winced when I read it and then used the quote in my earlier comment to make a point about the extent of sexual abuse without clearing up the fact that the problem is not “gay priests” but pedophiles or those who use their position of power and trust to seduce those who are less powerful.

    I am glad you made the point and sorry I didn’t: sexual orientation does not define who is or is not a pedophile or who abuses his/her position of power to seduce or demand sexual favors.

  • The words “gay priest sex ring” are indeed uncomfortable. But that’s what the people in Chile are saying. It’s not homophobia; it’s not ludicrous; it’s not a smear job. Especially not with 14 priests (and counting!) in one diocese, getting suspended. The people who live there, are just calling it the way they see it.

    The uncomfortable part is that the Rancagua situation is a sobering reminder of what the John Jay Report clearly said years ago, regarding the USA priest scandal. 80 percent of priests involved in the USA scandal = Homosexual. So it’s not about attacking people, nor about broad-brushing. Most people would want to show fairness. They’re just trying to tell the truth about a bad situation.

  • So, as usual, you just glossed right past this argument in order to advance your tired homophobic agenda:

    No one would ever think to describe a sex ring in which underage girls are delivered to older men a “straight sex ring.”

    I have no more to say to you because your mind is closed on this subject. Years ago when Ted Koppel asked Archbishop Desmond Tutu why he would not meet with Jerry Falwell, Sr. when Falwell visited South Africa and requested a visit with Tutu, Tutu said, “I refuse to speak to a man whose mind is closed.” Your mind is closed. Any further discussion with you is a waste of my time. Consider yourself blocked from now on. I’m done.

  • As much is you want it to be, “gay” is not the issue. The issue is the cover-up by God’s Anointed.

  • Too little, too late. The flawed underbelly of the RCC has finally been exposed and Francis cannot stop the bleeding.

  • Unless they were using their power and trust to seduce females, your objection seems to be rather thin.

  • Would you care to read about the problems in the Episcopal Church in which congregations select their pastors, bishops are elected for a set term, and so on?

  • I just spit my coffee laughing at “I have a problem calling a pedophile sex ring a ‘gay priest sex ring’ just because the perpetrators of the abuse and their victims both happen to be male.”

    What do you propose, “pedophile sex ring composed solely of males with same sex attractions?”

  • I would propose pedophile sex ring who chose to act it out on a minor boy in a homosexual manner
    I know you would choose differently.

  • Unless they had access to females the same way they have access to boys, your objection to his objection is merely an intentional obfuscation of the issue in order to conflate “pedophile catholic priests who attack minor boys” with “gay priests”.

  • The access argument has been shot full of holes so many times it’s hardly worth doing it again.

    Remember, you yourself have argued that orientation is unchangeable, and you’ve argued it more than once.

  • Curious. I’ve always wondered exactly what good the blocking feature is.

    You won’t see my posts and replies, that is true. But everybody else will still be able to. They’ll still see some good counter-arguments that apply to whatever talking-points you or other folks may bring up.

    But no worries, no H8, no problemo. You won’t even see this post. It just seems to me like the blocking feature merely performs an ostrich-like function, honestly affecting only the blocker.

  • That’s Catholicism for you: “Francis’ acceptance of the resignation signaled ‘the end of the damage’ that the pope himself had inflicted” – but without having to resign himself. Same as it ever was.

  • I never said it was a perfect system, but better then a closed shop with an absolute monarchy. With more eyes on administration and accountability, scandals cannot be as widespread or easily swept under the rug.

    The Episcopal Church requires that their priests be ordained as do many churches. In many churches, a pastor is hired from a list of those who are ordained and open to moving to a new congregation. This system allows the congregation to vet and select its own pastor from those trained and ordained by the denomination.

    I am not familiar how a priest is assigned or hired by a congregation in the Episcopal Church.

  • According to Lumen Gentium, one of the documents of Vatican II, it is in fact an absolute monarchy. According to that it was so founded by Jesus Christ.

    With more eyes on administration and accountability, scandals in the Episcopal Church have been as widespread and easily swept under the rug.

  • Gay priests are capable of living out healthy celibacy. Most do, just as most (but not all) heterosexual priests do. But the celibate priesthood can be an attractive haven for people in denial of their sexuality, and since the institutional Church effectively encourages gay priests to deny their sexuality, it invites the kind of problems that have been uncovered in Chile.

    I’m certainly not saying the Church turns gay priests — or straight ones, for that matter — into abusers. I’m saying that Roman Catholic clerical culture, because it includes such things as triumphalism, paternalism, authoritarianism and, yes, celibacy, attracts people with dysfunctional sexual tendencies, including a high number of gay priests who haven’t come to terms with their own sexual orientation.

    Until we deal with the underlying problems with the priesthood itself, clerical child abuse will continue to be a major problem.

  • But you know absolutely nothing of the sexual orientation of those priests. NOTHING. Though you do know is the every one of the abusers was a Catholic priest, and their abuse was covered up by a bishop.
    What you know is that some of god’s anointed, representing him and holy mother church, abused a minor boy. It is well known that pedophiles are attracted to both sexes of children. It quite well known that priests have far more access to boys than they do to girls.
    But what isn’t known is their sexual orientation, and whether they are oriented to children of whatever sex, or adults. For decades, the Boy Scouts banned gay scouts and gay scoutmasters. They preferred married heterosexual men. For decades, they had a molestation problem, which for decades they covered up as much as they were able, like the Roman Church, deflecting the blame onto innocent gay people WHO WEREN’T MEMBERS OF THEIR ORGANIZATION AND WEREN’T RESPONSIBLE FOR IT.
    The only two gay men I have ever known who were molested as children were molested by THEIR HETEROSEXUAL FATHERS.
    so, just keep trying to blame gay people for the church’s molestation problem.

  • The sexual orientation can be deduced from the actions.

    Of course, if you wish to retract your dozens of statements to the contrary and stipulate that sexual orientation is pliable, please do so now.

    The rest of your ranting misses the entire point of the discussion of the phrasing.

  • Obviously, from my examples, that isn’t true, and you are simply changing the subject, as you usually do when you can’t prove your point. but I have heard the Word of bob, the king and the god of BobWorld, so I won’t press the matter.

  • Obviously you have very strong beliefs and, when faced with an argument against one or more of them, claim the interrogator is changing the subject.

    To anyone with a modicum of intelligence, the quickest determinant of sexual orientation would be to see with whom the subject actually engages in sexual behavior.

    But not to you, and that is why you won’t “press the matter”.

  • To anyone who is completely ignorant on The subject, not to anyone with a modicum of intelligence.


  • Really?

    I suppose, then, that your approach – which involves following the same sorts of procedures any scientist examining an organism would follow and then, if the evidence is inconvenient or turns out to be embarrassing or otherwise unacceptable, calling “foul!” is the preferred method.

    Or, perhaps you’re completely ignorant on the topic?

    It is true that having a same sex attraction has NOT been proven to make one more likely to abuse than having a heterosexual orientation.

    But the individuals under discussion had poor impulse control by definition or they would not have been abusers in the first place.

    So, the only remaining question is why 80% of the abuse was homosexual in nature.

  • I wouldn’t necessarily say gay priests as much as I would say men with problematic sexuality, some of whom may be homosexual– not gay. Gay implies a level of self acceptance that you simply won’t find inside a church. The sheer amount of abuse of underaged kids of whichever sex by priests is a very good indication that these were pedophiliac-oriented.
    Many years ago, a friend of mine who was gay entered the seminary, because that’s what Irish catholic boys did if they were trying to escape their sexuality. When he got there, he found far more sex going on inside the seminary than he had ever seen outside. They were doing it with other seminarians because that is who they had access to. He left the seminary after a few months, learned to accept himself, and then left being catholic behind him.

  • You are quite mistaken about what the John Jay report concluded, and in the interpretation of their findings. Your tired agenda is to broad-brush all gay men.

    “…nearly every reputable psychologist and psychiatrist, not to mention almost every scholarly study, decisively rejects the conflation of homosexuality with pedophilia, as well as any cause-and-effect relationship. The studies are almost too numerous to mention. Pedophilia, say experts, is often more a question of a stunted (or arrested) sexuality, more a question of power, and more a question of proximity (among other complicated psychological and social factors). The new John Jay College of Criminal Justice study, called “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010,” points to, among other reasons: emotionally immature and psychologically maladjusted men entering seminaries; the difficulty of dealing with cultural upheaval in which priests found themselves in the 1960s and 1970s; as well as, again, the issue of proximity–young men and boys were abused because priests were more likely to be working with them, rather than with young women and girls. But simply put, being a homosexual priest does not make one an abusive priest.

    Indeed, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned another extensive independent study in the wake of the American abuse crisis in 2002, also undertaken by John Jay College. In 2009, Margaret Smith, a researcher from John Jay, reported to the bishops, “What we are suggesting is that the idea of sexual identity be separated from the problem of sexual abuse. At this point, we do not find a connection between homosexual identity and the increased likelihood of subsequent abuse from the data that we have right now.”

    Second, there is a stronger argument against the frequent conflation of homosexuality and pedophilia: the lived experience of emotionally mature and psychologically healthy gay men (and women) who have never, ever abused a child; are not tempted to do so; are not attracted to children at all; and would, in short, never think of doing so. Being gay does not make one a pedophile.”

  • “The sexual orientation can be deduced from the actions.”

    The “actions” involved an adult male in power over underaged boys and children. That is a sexual orientation toward children. The great majority of men with a homosexual orientation have never abused kids or youth.

  • “…the only remaining question is why 80% of the abuse was homosexual in nature.”
    The John Jay Report concluded that these were crimes of proximity. Perpetrating priests were much more likely to have access to male children and youth than females. And finally, for the victims, this is not a “homosexual” or “sexual” experience at all. It is a case of traumatic abuse.

  • “Gay implies a level of self acceptance that you simply won’t find inside a church.”

    Depends on the church.

  • “Men with problematic sexuality.” Hmm.

    Ben, this personal anecdote you offer IS powerful and poignant. We will not totally agree on why it is, but this IS an immensely moving and saddening snapshot of a real tragedy. A person walks into seminary, only to walk into a living nightmare. I commend you for sharing it, but it is painful.

    Now here’s the part we won’t agree on. This horrific personal snapshot that you shared, visibly fits like a glove to some degree with the terrible Rancagua “gay sex ring” situation, and also fits the initial John Jay Report 80% statistic (don’t worry, I’ll briefly reply to Mr. Canis on that point.) This half-buried homosexuality connection — the acceptance of homosexual self-identity, the addiction, and the all-you-can-eat gay sex activity, be it with adult seminarians or church boys — is visibly right there, it dominates all three examples.

    Again, no broad-brushing, no attack, no H8 here. It’s just that your painful anecdote … fits in.

  • I think the John Jay Report is pretty clear about the “80% = Homosexual” thing (though it did not try to broadbrush anybody). Can’t blow off that number, though pro-gay advocates have tried. Here’s what the fighting over John Jay is all about:

    “A 2011 study commissioned by the U.S. Bishops and conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, found that nearly 80 percent of victims who were abused by priests were post-pubescent and adolescent males. Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a top psychiatrist and expert in handling sexually abusive priests, said at the time that the study revealed that homosexuality was the primary driving force behind the bulk of abuse cases.”
    — Pete Baklinski, , 07-07-2017.

    Naturally, the pro-gay forces and THEIR psychs weren’t happy. Hence revisionism. But nobody ever scientifically eliminated that initial number — 80 percent.

  • You’re the one doing the revisioning. First of all, your quote is from a wacko right-wing website, an editorial comment – not the John Jay Report. The John Jay report emphasized that “homosexuality” was not the cause or “driving force” behind the abuse. Grow up and think like a rational person.

  • Periodically I unblock folks to see if the leopard has changed its spots.

    I see that you continue to labor under the misimpression that I give a sh-t what you think.

    No, the John Jay Report did NOT conclude these were crimes of proximity.

    It noted that the victims were generally groomed over time, and that access to both male and female victims were approximately the same.

    It found that 81% of the victims were male; and of all the victims, 22% were younger than age 10, 51% were between the ages of 11 and 14, and 27% were between the ages of 15 and 17 years.

    So 78% of the crimes were committed by non-pedophiles.

    Well, back to blocked.

  • “Blocked” — right Bob… you’ve never blocked me. Or anyone else. That just your meaningless bluster. And if you didn’t care what I thought, you would not have taken the time to respond just now.

  • Of course it’s hate. It’s coming from you. As always, you want to blame the catholic sex problem on gay men who are as horrified of what these pedophile priests do as any normal person would be, just like you want to blame the entire hgay community for the slightly violent actions of a few people a decade ago.

    That’s you. I don’t expect better.r

  • So, in short, you are calling the Catholic Church completely, morally corrupt? How Sandimonious of you.

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