In Chile Francis Is Duplicating Himself. And Nobody Knowns Which Is the Real One

In Chile Francis Is Duplicating Himself. And Nobody Knowns Which Is the Real One

Sandro Magister – 1/16/17

A few days before the arrival of Pope Francis in Chile, the publication in the Associated Press of a letter of his to the Chilean bishops from January of 2015 has complicated his visit quite a bit.

That letter, in fact, generates an authentic brainteaser as to the real thinking of Jorge Mario Bergoglio concerning the biggest scandal that has shaken Chile in recent years, the one centered on a priest named Fernando Karadima.

Karadima, now eighty-seven, was for years a pastor in Santiago, but above all was an extremely popular educator and leader of vast ranks of young people and priests, some of whom went on to become bishops.

In 2010, however, many of his disciples revealed that he had sexually abused them when they were young or minors. The Holy See quickly reached the conclusion that those accusations were well-founded. And on June 21, 2011 it found Karadima guilty and ordered him to retire to a private life of penance and prayer.

Afterward, however, new charges were made against three bishops who had been raised in the school of Karadima, accused of having witnessed or taken part in some of the sexual abuse committed by their teacher.

These three bishops were:

– Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid, ordained in 1995 as auxiliary of ValparaÍso, later made bishop of Iquique and at the time the military ordinary of Chile;
– Tomislav Koljatic Maroevic, ordained in 1998, bishop of Linares;
– Horacio del Carmen Valenzuela Abarca, ordained in 1995, bishop of Talca;

The Holy See also opened investigations into these three bishops. And it quickly came to the decision to remove them from the exercise of their offices.

This, in fact, is what can be gathered from the letter of Pope Francis made public a few days ago by the Associated Press.

According to what the pope writes in this letter, in 2014 the Vatican nuncio in Chile, Ivo Scapolo, asked Barros, the bishop most in the eye of the hurricane, to resign and take a year of sabbatical.

The nuncio also told Barros confidentially – again according to what the pope writes – that the same step would be requested of the other two bishops under accusation.

Barros, however, in the letter of resignation that he sent to the Vatican authorities toward the end of 2014, also put down in writing what the nuncio had said to him confidentially concerning the other two bishops. And this infraction – the pope writes in the letter – “complicated and blocked” everything.

In fact, the resignation of Barros and of the other two bishops had no follow-up.

Not only that. Shortly afterward, Francis even promoted Barros from military ordinary to bishop of a diocese, that of Osorno.

The appointment was made public on January 10, 2015, and in Chile all bedlam broke loose. On January 23, the permanent council of the episcopal conference of Chile wrote a letter to Pope Francis asking him to revoke the appointment.

And on January 31 Francis replied to the Chilean bishops with none other than the letter now made public by the Associated Press.

Here it is translated in its entirety from the original Spanish:

*

Vatican, January 31, 2015

To the distinguished bishops of the Permanent Committee of the Episcopal Conference of Chile

Dear brothers:

I have received your e-mail of the 23rd of this month. Thank you very much for openly manifesting the disquiet that you have at this time concerning the appointment of Mons. Juan Barros Madrid. I understand what you are saying to me and I am aware that the situation of the Church of Chile is difficult due to all the trials you have had to endure.

I pledge to you, in addition to my fraternal understanding, my closeness as a brother and my prayer.

I remember well the visit that you made in February of last year, and also the various proposals, which seemed to me prudent and constructive.

However, there then arose, at the end of the year, a serious problem. The distinguished nuncio asked Mons. Barros for his resignation and urged him to take a sabbatical period (one year, for example) before taking on another pastoral responsibility as diocesan bishop. And he mentioned to him that the same procedure would be used with the bishops of Talca and Linares, but not to tell them about this. Mons. Barros sent the text of his resignation, adding this remark from the nuncio.

As you can understand, this remark of the distinguished nuncio complicated and blocked any further move in the direction of offering a sabbatical year. I spoke about the matter with Card. Ouellet, and I know that he spoke with the distinguished nuncio.

At this time, following the express indication of the Congregation for Bishops, Mons. Barros is doing a month of Spiritual Exercises in Spain. I do not know if he will pass through Rome afterward, but I will advise Card. Ouellet of this and of the suggestion that you are making.

I thank you once again for your openness and frankness in expressing your views and feelings: this is the only way to work for the Church, the care of which the Lord has entrusted to the bishops.

I ask you to please pray for me, because I need it.

May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin watch over you.
Fraternally,

Franciscus

*

As can be seen, in this letter of his Francis does not explain why a mere impropriety in writing – and moreover a correctible one – was enough to nullify Barros’s resignation.

Nor much less does the pope cite, or explain, the bewildering about-face that he made with the promotion to the diocese of Osorno of the bishop whom just a short time before he had intended to remove.

This is, in any case, what happened next.

– On March 6, 2015, Francis received in audience the archbishop of Concepción, Fernando Natalio Chomalí Garib, apostolic administrator of Osorno in the interim before the installation of the new bishop.

– On March 21, 2015 Barros made his official entrance into the diocese of Osorno, amid a hurricane of protests.

– Ten days later, on March 31, a statement from the deputy director of the Vatican press office declared that “prior to the recent appointment of His Excellency Msgr. Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid as bishop of Osorno, Chile, the Congregation for Bishops carefully examined the prelate’s candidature and did not find objective reasons to preclude the appointment.” Which does not explain why instead until the very end of 2014 the Holy See would opt for the resignation of Barros.

– In April Marie Collins, a victim of abuse in her youth and a prominent member of the pontifical commission for the protection of minors, publicly criticized the appointment of Barros. And with three other members of the commission she went to Rome to meet with the president of the commission, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, to get him to convince the pope to revoke the appointment.

– In May, at the end of a general audience in Saint Peter’s Square, Francis met with a former spokesman of the Chilean episcopal conference, Jaime Coiro, along with his family, who told him that in Chile the Church “is praying and suffering” because of all that is happening.

And these are the words that Francis addressed to him, immortalized in a video of one minute and twenty seconds released the following October 2 by the Chilean television network “Ahora Noticias”:

In the original Spanish:

“Es una Iglesia que perdió la libertad dejándose llenar la cabeza por políticos, juzgando a un obispo sin ninguna prueba después de veinte años de servicio. O sea, que piensen con la cabeza, no se dejen llevar por las narices de todos los zurdos que son los que armaron la cosa.

“Además, la única acusación que hubo contra ese obispo fue desacreditada por la corte judicial. O sea, por favor, eh… no pierdan la serenidad. Osorno sufre sí, por tonta, porque no abre su corazón a lo que Dios dice y se deja llevar por las macanas que dice toda esa gente. Yo soy el primero en juzgar y castigar a alguien que tiene acusaciones de ese tipo… Pero en este caso ni una prueba, al contrario… De corazón se lo digo. No se dejen llevar por las narices de estos que buscan lío no más, que buscan calumnias…”.

And in English:

“It is a Church that has lost its freedom because it has let its head be filled up by the politicians, judging a bishop without any proof after twenty years of service. So think with your heads, and don’t let yourselves be led by the nose by all those leftists who are the ones who drummed up the business.

“Furthermore, the only accusation that there has been against this bishop has been discredited by the judicial court. So please, eh? Don’t lose your serenity. Yes, Osorno is suffering, because it is stupid, because it is not opening its heart to what God is saying and is letting itself get carried away by the stupidities that all those people are saying. I am the first to judge and punish those who have been accused of such things… But in this case there is a lack of proof, or rather, on the contrary… I say it from the heart. Don’t let yourselves be led by the nose by these people who are seeking only to make ‘lío,’ confusion, who seek to calumniate….”

– In October, after the release of these words from Francis that were as exonerating for Barros as they were humiliating for his accusers, the protests exploded with even more force. And even Marie Collins stated in a tweet her deep dismay over this position taken by the pope:

“What a waste that trip to Rome re Barros was, when you see the claims of Karadima’s courageous victims categorised in this way.”

– A year and a half later, on February 20, 2017, Francis received the bishops of Chile on their “ad limina” visit. He conversed with them, behind closed doors, for about three hours. After the meeting, cardinal of Santiago Santiago Ricardo Ezzati Andrello stated that the pope also touched “with much sincerity” upon the problem of pedophilia, urging them to “overcome this situation.” But nothing changed with regard to the bishop of Osorno, who was also present at the meeting, as were the other two disciples of Karadima, the bishops of Linares and Talca.

*

And that brings us up to today, to the arrival of Pope Francis in Chile, right when the lid has been lifted – with the publication of that letter of his from January 31, 2015 – on the mess of contradictions that marks his management of the affair.

Contradictions between speech and action. As also between saying one thing today and the next time its opposite.

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