(The Guardian) Chile’s bishops have offered to resign en masse over a sexual abuse and cover-up scandal that has embroiled Pope Francis and has been highly damaging to the Catholic church.
Thirty-one serving bishops and three retired bishops signed a letter of resignation on Friday. “We have put our positions in the hands of the Holy Father and will leave it to him to decide freely for each of us,” they said. “We want to ask forgiveness for the pain caused to the victims, to the pope, to God’s people and to our country for the serious errors and omissions we have committed.”
There was no immediate indication of whether the pope would accept their resignations.
The bishops’ move came after Francis said the Chilean church hierarchy was collectively responsible for “grave defects” in handling sexual abuse cases and the resulting loss of credibility suffered by the church.
He accused them of destroying evidence of sexual crimes, putting pressure on investigators to downplay abuse accusations and showing “grave negligence” in protecting children from paedophile priests.
“No one can exempt himself and place the problem on the shoulders of the others,” Francis said in a letter to the bishops.
Francis summoned the bishops to a three-day emergency summit in Rome after he was forced to admit he had made “grave errors in judgment” in the case of Juan Barros, a bishop who had been accused of covering up alleged abuse by a Chilean priest, Fernando Karadima, in the 1980s and 90s.
The Chilean church has been rocked by the allegations of abuse by Karadima and others, and by claims that senior figures knew about or even witnessed what was going on.
Now 87 and living in a nursing home in Chile, Karadima has always denied the allegations. Barros has said he was unaware of any wrongdoing.
Francis strongly defended Barros during a visit to Chile in January, accusing Karadima’s accusers of slander, in remarks that shocked Chileans and others around the world. “There is not one piece of evidence against [Barros]. It is calumny,” he said.