They asked for the victims' help going forward and said that at the end of their last session with the pope May 17, each of the active bishops presented a written resignation and will await the pope’s decision on whether to accept or reject it.
In comments to the press, González said that for now, the bishops will return to their dioceses and will continue their work as usual until hearing from the pope, who will either reject their resignation, accept it immediately, or put it into effect only once a new bishop is named.
The May 15-17 gathering between the pope and the 34 Chilean bishops, two of whom have already retired, was called for by Pope Francis himself last month following Scicluna and Bertomeu's investigation into abuse cover-up by Church hierarchy in Chile, resulting in a 2,300-page report. To date, that report has not been made public.
The investigation was initially centered around Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, appointed to the diocese in 2015 and accused by at least one victim of covering up abuses of Chilean priest Fernando Karadima.
In 2011, Karadima was convicted by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of abusing minors and sentenced to a life of prayer and solitude. Allegations of cover-up were also made against three other bishops – Andrés Arteaga, Tomislav Koljatic and Horacio Valenzuela – whom Karadima's victims accuse of knowing about Karadima’s crimes and failing to act.
Pope Francis initially defended Barros, saying he had received no evidence of the bishop's guilt, and called accusations against him “calumny” during a trip to Chile in January. However, after receiving Scicluna's report, Francis apologized and asked to meet the bishops and more outspoken survivors in person.
In a scathing letter that was leaked to Chilean television station T13 May 17, Pope Francis skewered the Chilean prelates for a systematic cover-up of abuse involving not only the destruction of documents, but superficial investigations that led to moving accused abusers to other schools or parishes where they had access to children.
Although victims of the Chilean abuse scandals have often been dismissed and accused of making up stories to attack the Church, the pope's letter - which he gave to the bishops during their 3-day meeting - appeared to side with the victims based on the conclusions of Scicluna's report.
In his footnotes, Pope Francis noted how the investigation found that while some religious had been expelled from their orders due to “immoral conduct,” blaming their “criminal acts” on simple weakness, they were then transferred to other parishes or dioceses and given jobs where they had “daily and direct contact with minors.”
The reference was likely not only to Karadima, but to other religious orders in which scandals have recently come to light, including the Salesians, Franciscans and the Marist Brothers.
In the letter, Francis said there had also been serious flaws in handling cases of “delicta graviora,” meaning “grave offenses,” which “corroborate with some of the worrying information that some Roman dicasteries have begun to be aware of.”
These errors, he said, have to do particularly with the reception of complaints and “notitiae crimini,” or information on the crimes, which “in not a few cases have been classified very superficially as improbable,” despite bearing signs of being a serious crime.
(Story cotinues below)
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In some cases, the pope wrote, it took months for complaints to be investigated, and in others they were not investigated at all. In still other cases, he said, there was clear evidence of “very serious negligence in the protection of children and vulnerable children on the part of bishops and religious superiors.”
Pope Francis said he was “perplexed and ashamed” to have read statements saying Church officials investigating abuse allegations had been pressured, and that in some cases, documents had been destroyed by those in charge of diocesan archives.
These actions, Francis said, constitute “an absolute lack of respect for canonical procedure and, even more, reprehensible practices which must be avoided in the future.”
The problems, the pope said, do not belong to just one group of people, but are the result of a fractured seminary process.
In the case of many abusers, problems had been detected while they were in seminary or the novitiate, he said, noting that Scicluna's investigation contained “serious accusations against some bishops or superiors who sent priests suspected of active homosexuality to these educational institutions.”
In the letter, Pope Francis stressed the need to recognize not only the damage done, but also the underlying causes that led to abuse and cover-up, and to identify ways to repair the pain and suffering many have endured.