Pope Francis is in Chile – and the country is less than ecstatic about his visit. Many in fact are downright incensed, their anger manifesting itself in protests and the firebombing of nine churches.
The source of their anger, according to this report, was sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Chile, and the Pope, on his first visit to the country, was forced to address the issue shortly after his arrival.
The pontiff also acknowledged the “pain” of priests who have been held collectively responsible for the crimes of a few, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told reporters on Tuesday.
Francis dived head-first into Chile’s sex abuse scandal on his first full day in Santiago that came amid unprecedented opposition to his visit: three more churches has been torched overnight, including one burned to the ground in the southern Araucania region where Francis celebrates Mass today (Wednesday)
Police used tear gas and water cannons to break up an anti-pope protest outside Francis’ big open-air Mass in the capital, Santiago.
At his first event of his visit, Francis met privately with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and addressed lawmakers, judges and other authorities at La Moneda palace.
They interrupted him with applause when he said he felt “bound to express my pain and shame” that some of Chile’s pastors had sexually abused children in their care.
I am one with my brother bishops, for it is right to ask forgiveness and make every effort to support the victims, even as we commit ourselves to ensuring that such things do not happen again.
Francis didn’t refer by name to Chile’s most notorious paedophile priest, the Rev Fernando Karadima, who was merely “sanctioned” in 2011 by the Vatican.
Nor did he refer to the fact that the emeritus archbishop of Santiago, a top papal adviser, has acknowledged he knew of complaints against Karadima but didn’t remove him from ministry.
Karadima had been a politically connected, charismatic and powerful priest who ministered to a wealthy Santiago community and produced dozens of priestly vocations and five bishops.
Victims went public with their accusations in 2010, after complaining for years to church authorities that Karadima would kiss and fondle them when they were teenagers.
While the scandal rocked the church, many Chileans are still furious over Francis’ subsequent decision, in 2015, to appoint a Karadima protégé as bishop of the southern city of Osorno.
Bishop Juan Barros has denied knowing about Karadima’s abuse but many Chileans don’t believe him, and his appointment has badly split the diocese.
Said Massimo Faggioli, a Vatican expert and theology professor at Villanova University in Philadelphia:
Sex abuse is Pope Francis’ weakest spot in terms of his credibility. It is surprising that the pope and his entourage don’t understand that they need to be more forthcoming on this issue.
The Karadima scandal and a long cover-up has caused a crisis for the church in Chile, with a recent Latinbarometro survey saying the case was responsible for a significant drop in the number of Chileans who call themselves Catholic, as well as a fall in confidence in the church as an institution.
Said Juan Carlos Claret, spokesman for a group of church members in Osorno that has opposed Barros’ appointment as bishop.
People are leaving the church because they don’t find a protective space there. The pastors are eating the flock.
Victor Hugo Robles, an activist in Chile’s lesbian and gay community, said the Vatican tries to paint an image of the Pope as being close to the people, particularly those with the most needs.
We are the ones who need help,. Gay people, people living with Aids. When it comes to those things, the church has an attitude of intolerance, of disgust.
Meanwhile, it’s reported here that survivors of abuse committed at a British Catholic school attended by the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, are asking him to press for the publication of an independent review they claim has been hushed up.
Hinds was a pupil in the 1980s at St Ambrose College near Altrincham in Greater Manchester.
Alan Morris, above, a former chemistry teacher at St Ambrose and a church deacon, was jailed for nine years in 2014 for indecent assault and gross indecency against 19 boys between 1973 and 1990.
Police said it was likely that two other teachers would have been charged with serious sexual offences but had died.
After Morris’s trial, the Christian Brothers – the Catholic order that runs the school – and the Safeguarding Commission for Orders in Education (SCOE), another Catholic body, commissioned an independent review into abuse and safeguarding at St Ambrose. The report is believed to have been delivered in the autumn of 2016 but has so far not been published.
David Nolan, a former pupil and one of about 70 survivors of abuse at the school who remain in contact, said the “disappearance” of the review was “immensely frustrating”.
There has never been a suggestion that Hinds was abused, but Nolan said that he hoped the Education Secretary, in his new role, would ensure the report was published.
Hinds was there when some of the worst abuse happened. Now, as education secretary, he could help us get at the truth. Publication of the report would go some way to acknowledging what happened.
Nolan, who wrote a book, Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil, about abuse at St Ambrose, said he had attended the funerals of two former pupils – one who “drank himself to death” and another who killed himself – in the past year.
Another former pupil who was abused, Derek Scanlan, gave evidence at Morris’s trial and was in the year above Hinds.
All of us who were there knew there was a culture of sexual, physical and mental abuse in that era. Morris was convicted and sent to prison, but we want the findings of the inquiry to be made public and the lessons to be learned. But it’s been brushed under the carpet.
A third ex-pupil who asked not to be named said:
Given Hinds’ history with the school and the position he now holds, he should step in and ensure this report is made public.
After his trial, police said Morris:
Revelled in his fearsome reputation, taking it upon himself to seek out and punish pupils, using corporal punishment to cloak his real motive for chastising young boys: sexual gratification.?
James Keulemans, principal of St Ambrose, said he had asked for the inquiry report to be published in its entirety and as soon as possible.
I’ve no idea what’s causing the delay.
In a statement, the Christian Brothers said:
The SCOE together with the Shrewsbury diocese are reviewing the report and its recommendations to identify learning and action steps, following which the report is due to be published. The trustees of the Christian Brothers will publish the report and are now taking action to expedite this matter.
The SCOE said it planned to consider the report at a meeting next week and anticipated it would be released subsequently.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn (St Ambrose report)