Advertising

Pope Francis defrocks two Chilean bishops over sex abuse

World News | Published:

The Vatican took the unusual step of issuing a statement clarifying the reasons for their removal.

Vatican Pope

Pope Francis has defrocked two more Chilean bishops accused of sexually abusing minors, and to show greater transparency about how he is responding to the church’s global sex abuse crisis, he publicly explained why they were removed.

The Vatican’s unusually detailed statement announcing the laicisation of retired Archbishop Francisco Jose Cox Huneeus and retired Bishop Marco Antonio Ordenes Fernandez signalled a new degree of transparency following past missteps by Francis.

The statement said the two were defrocked for abusing minors with evidence so overwhelming that a canonical trial was unnecessary.

Vatican Chile
Pope Francis poses with Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera and his wife Cecilia Morel (Alessandro Bianchi/AP)

The Vatican said the decision cannot be appealed against.

Cox, 87 and suffering from dementia, is a member of the Schoenstatt religious order and had served as a bishop in Chillan, Chile before becoming the number two official at the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, a high-profile position during St John Paul II’s papacy.

He returned to Chile and became bishop in La Serena until he left in 1997 under unclear circumstances, but took on administrative jobs in Rome and at the Latin American bishops’ conference in Colombia.

In 2002, the Vatican office for bishops asked the Schoenstatt Fathers to take him in one of its houses, apparently because of abuse allegations.

Advertising

He has been living in Germany since then but last year a new, formal accusation was received by the Vatican about an alleged case of abuse that happened in Germany in 2004.

The Schoenstatt Fathers said Saturday the Vatican had asked that Cox remain in their custody.

The order said it would cooperate with the justice system, given that victims in Chile have made criminal complaints against him.

Advertising

“We receive this news with much shame for the damage caused to the victims,” the community said.

“We show solidarity with them and their profound suffering.

“Today more than ever, we deplore every act of abuse that offends the dignity of people.”

Given the favour that Cox enjoyed by John Paul’s inner circle, his fall is yet another stain on John Paul’s legacy.

It also calls into question the senior Schoenstatt cardinal in Chile, Cardinal Javier Errazuriz, an adviser to Francis who has long been accused of covering up for abusers.

Ordenes Fernandez, 53, for his part, was made bishop of Iquique, in northern Chile, in 2006 at the young age of 42.

He retired six years later allegedly for health reasons.

Vatican Pope Synod
Pope Francis holds a folder (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

But subsequently allegations of abuse were levelled against him.

Previously, the Vatican has rarely, if ever, announced laicisations of individual priests and only issued a single-line statement if a bishop had resigned, without further explanation.

Before Francis’ papacy began in 2013, it was Vatican practice to reveal if resignations were retirements due to age, or for some other “grave” reason that made them unfit for office.

But Francis early on removed even that minimum amount of information.

Advocates for abuse survivors have long complained about the Vatican’s secrecy in handling such abuse cases, and the lack of transparency when it arrived at judgments.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said Saturday’s more detailed statement suggested a new trend in the way the Vatican will announce the results of investigations of bishops accused of abuse.

A similarly detailed statement was issued when Francis defrocked Chile’s most notorious abuser, Fernando Karadima, several weeks ago.

Francis has been under fire for his handling of abuse cases for years.

In May, all active bishops in Chile offered to resign over their collective mishandling of the abuse scandal. So far, Francis has accepted the resignations of seven.

Francis discussed the issue during his Vatican audience on Saturday with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera Echenique, who also met with the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

The Vatican said both meetings discussed “the painful scourge of abuse of minors, reiterating the effort of all in collaboration to combat and prevent the perpetration of such crimes and their concealment”.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Advertising

Top stories

Advertising

More from Shropshire Star

UK & International News