How Will Pope’s Focus on Chile Affect Other Abuse Cases in Latin America?
The cases that have been reported are thought to be only the tip of the iceberg.
Pope Francis’ attention has understandably been on Chile in recent weeks, but what will happen now elsewhere in Latin America where clerical abuse cases have come to light, notably in Argentina and Honduras?
The Vatican announced on Tuesday that the Holy Father will meet five priests and two laypeople — all victims of the Chilean serial abuser, Father Fernando Karadima. The confidential meeting, to take place individually and as a group at his Santa Marta residence June 1-3, comes after the Pope met three lay victims of Father Karadima last month.
The Pope wishes to “accompany them in their pain and to listen to their valuable views to improve the current preventive measures and the fight against abuses in the Church,” the Vatican said on Tuesday.
Since the Pope met all Chile’s bishops last week, and their subsequent en masse resignation in response to the grave mishandling of historic abuse cases that has emerged in recent weeks, a course of justice appears to have been set in motion in the country following the revelations and a wave of bad publicity. So far Pope Francis has not announced the acceptance any of the Chilean bishops' resignations.
Further developments took place over the weekend when Chilean Bishop Alejandro Goić Karmelić suspended 12 priests after allegations of sexual misconduct were raised against them. The bishop apologized for his inaction when he first heard about the accusations.
But elsewhere in Latin America, clerical sexual abuse cases remain largely unreported by the world’s media. And even in Chile, the Holy Father only shifted direction after his trip there in January, during which he provoked intense criticism by dismissing some of the accusations by abuse victims as “calumny.” He later apologized for being seriously mistaken about the Karadima case, and followed that up with last week’s dramatic intervention to address the systemic failures of the Chilean Church with respect to the handling of sexual abuse.
“Now, at long last, Pope Francis seems to have glimpsed the depth of the global crisis,”The New York Times said today in an editorial.
That may well be the case, but if so, will further stringent action be taken in other countries? Cases are gradually coming to light, one of the latest in Pope Francis’ native Argentina, where a priest was jailed for 25 years on Monday for abusing seven children.
Such cases in Latin America, though, are thought to be only the tip of the iceberg.
Furthermore, no action has been taken regarding one of the most pressing cases in Honduras. Auxiliary Bishop Juan Jose Pineda of the Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa is accused of sexually abusing seminarians and marginalizing his critics.
A papal investigation was carried out last year by emeritus Argentine Bishop Jorge Casaretto (who as bishop of the Diocese of San Isidro allegedly failed to investigate and remove a priest later found guilty by the Congregation of Doctrine of Faith of sexual abuse). The Vatican has declined to comment on the investigation in Tegucigalpa archdiocese and reportedly no action has been taken. Both Bishop Pineda and Cardinal Maradiaga had private audiences with the Pope two weeks ago but no information has been forthcoming.
After hearing about all the acts of reparation being taken in Chile, a Church source in Honduras asked: “How much longer do victims here still have to wait to get justice?”
It seems that Latin America’s reckoning over clerical sex abuse is only just beginning.