Accused of “grave negligence” in investigating sexual abuse and protecting children, all 34 of Chile’s Roman Catholic bishops recently offered their resignations to Pope Francis. According to the contents of a Vatican report that was leaked on Friday, many of the bishops destroyed evidence of sex crimes, pressured church investigators to minimize abuse accusations, and exhibited grave negligence in protecting children from pedophile priests.
“We want to ask forgiveness for the pain we caused victims, the pope, the people of God and our country for the grave errors and omissions that we committed,” the bishops said in a statement.
“They didn’t know how to protect the weakest, exposed them to abuse and then impeded justice,” said Jose Andres Murillo, one of those abused and a main whistleblower in the case. “For this, they deserve only to go.”
Three years ago, Pope Francis appointed Bishop Juan Barros who is accused of obstructing an investigation into his mentor, Catholic priest Fernando Karadima. Found guilty by the Vatican of sexually abusing young boys in the 1970s and 80s, Karadima was sentenced to a lifetime of “penance and prayer.”
Cardinal Javier Errazuriz has also been accused of participating in the conspiracy to cover up Karadima’s crimes. As of this writing, the cardinal has not announced his resignation along with the Chilean bishops.
While visiting Chile in January, the pope defended Barros against the allegations. But a few days later, Pope Francis apologized for his comments and launched an investigation into sexual abuse allegations in Chile.
Shortly after the contents of the Vatican report were leaked, all 34 of Chile’s bishops offered their resignations on Friday. They asked forgiveness for the pain that they have caused and the “omissions” committed.
“We are all involved, myself in the first place, and no one can be exempted by looking to shift the problem onto the backs of others,” Pope Francis reportedly wrote in the Vatican report.
Pope Francis did not immediately accept the resignations or reject them. The bishops will remain in position until the pope announces a decision.