THE CHILEAN BISHOPS CRISIS

First Things | 5/22/2018 | Philip Lawler
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With the mass resignation of 34 Chilean bishops, we have reached the decisive moment of the Francis pontificate. How Pope Francis responds to this unprecedented gesture will determine how history judges him. Obviously, these dramatic resignations test the pontiff’s commitment to resolving the sex-abuse crisis. But there is even more at stake.

The resignations switch the focus of public attention from the Chilean hierarchy—which had clearly failed in its duties—to the pope. The Chilean bishops explained that they had decided to put their future “in the hands of the Holy Father and will leave it to him to decide freely” which prelates should step down. Now, which bishops will the pope dismiss, and which (if any) will he allow to remain in office?

Chilean - Bishops - Negligence - Pope - Investigation

Presumably some of the Chilean bishops are innocent of the “grave negligence” uncovered by the pope’s belated investigation. For now, they share in the general humiliation. Will they be exonerated? And will those who have been guilty of outright dishonesty (the pope cited the “destruction of compromising documents”) be identified and denounced? Or will the pope merely accept some resignations, and decline others, without public explanation?

When Francis was elected, the Catholic world was clamoring for accountability in the handling of sex-abuse complaints. The pope signed orders creating a tribunal to judge bishops accused of neglect—but then, after months of inaction, dissolved that body, explaining that existing mechanisms already allowed for disciplinary action against bishops. Yet in the Chilean case, those mechanisms were not used; instead the pope took action unilaterally. So there still is no indication that the Vatican has a working system for holding bishops accountable.

Bishop - Resignation - Guilt - Innocence - Chilean

A bishop’s resignation, quietly accepted, does not establish his guilt or innocence. On the contrary, to allow the Chilean bishops to step down without comment would cast an unfavorable light on those...
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