Chilean bishops all offer to resign in abuse cover-up scandal

All of Chile‘s 34 Roman Catholic bishops have offered Pope Francis their resignations in the wake of a child sex scandal and cover-up.

Photo: AFP

The bishops offered their resignation by letter after three days of crisis talks at the Vatican, during which the Pope handed them a 10-page document accusing Chile‘s Church hierarchy of negligence in sex abuse cases.

They asked forgiveness from victims and the Church for their “grave errors and omissions”.

It was not immediately clear whether the Pope had accepted the resignations.

He had been criticised in Chile for his decision to ordain a bishop who was accused of covering up sexual abuse committed by a priest.

He said in January that he felt “pain and shame” over the scandal, which rocked the church in Chile.

The upset centres around Bishop Juan Barros, accused of using his position in the Catholic Church to try to block an investigation into his mentor, Catholic priest Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty by the Vatican of sexually abusing young boys in the 1970s and 80s.

He was sentenced to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” but never faced criminal prosecution in Chile as too much time had passed. The judge who heard victims‘ testimony in a year-long investigation described them as “truthful and reliable”.

Pope Francis appointed Bishop Barros three years ago despite the cover-up allegations. He is not accused of carrying out abuse himself.

The bishop earlier and repeatedly offered his resignation to the Pope, which was rejected several times as he was believed to be innocent.

The Pope was widely criticised in January when he defended Bishop Barros during a visit to Chile.

He told a Chilean journalist: “The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will speak. There is not a single piece of proof against him. Everything is slander. Is this clear?”

Days later, the Pope apologised for hurting the victims of clerical sex abuse through his comments, saying the knowledge “pains me very much”. At the end of January, he sent the Vatican‘s top expert on sexual abuse to Chile to investigate accusations, citing new information.