Pope Francis accepts the resignation of two more Chilean bishops
Pope Francis. DANIEL IBAÑEZ/CNA
By Elise Harris
June 28, 2018
VATICAN— In his latest move on the Chilean clerical abuse crisis, Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Horacio del Carmen Valenzuela Abarca of Talca, and Bishop Alejandro Goić Karmelić of Rancagua, both of whom have come under fire for their reaction to abuse allegations.
Valenzuela, 64, is one of four bishops formed by notorious Chilean abuser Fr. Fernando Karadima, and has long been accused by victims of covering up his mentor’s crimes.
Goić, 78, is over the typical age of retirement for Catholic prelates, which is 75, however, in May he admitted to dropping the ball on abuse allegations brought to him last year. He apologized for having not looked into the charges, and suspended several priests who were accused by Chilean media of inappropriate sexual conduct with minors.
Pope Francis’ decision to accept their resignations was announced June 28, and comes nearly six weeks after every active Chilean bishop offered a written resignation to the pope following a three-day meeting with him at the Vatican in May to discuss the nation’s abuse crisis.
Stepping in as apostolic administrator of Talca, where Valenzuela has served since 1996, is Galo Fernández Villaseca, auxiliary bishop of Santiago.
The apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Rancagua, which Goić has led since 2004, will be Luis Fernando Ramos Pérez, also an auxiliary bishop of Santiago.
With Valenzuela and Goić included, there are now five Chilean bishops who have officially stepped down since presenting their resignations to the pope during their meeting in May, including Bishop Juan Barros, who had been at the center of the nation’s abuse scandal.
Earlier this year Francis summoned Chilean bishops to Rome following an in-depth investigation and report into the Chilean clerical abuse crisis carried out by Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in February, resulting in a 2,300 page report on the scandal.
The crisis flared up with Pope Francis’ appointment of Barros to the Diocese of Osorno in 2015, which was met with a wave of objections and calls for his resignation. Dozens of protesters, including non-Catholics, attempted to disrupt his March 21, 2015 installation Mass at the Osorno cathedral.
Opponents, including many of Karadima’s victims, were vocal, accusing Barros, Valenzuela, and two other Chilean bishops who had been close to Karadima – Andrés Arteaga and Tomislav Koljatic – of cover-up.
In 2011 Karadima was found guilty by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of sexually abusing several minors during the 1980s and 1990s, and sentenced to a life of prayer and solitude.
Though Pope Francis had initially backed Barros, after Scicluna and Bertomeu’s investigation he issued a major “mea culpa” for having made “serious mistakes” in judging the case due to “a lack of truthful and balanced information.”
Since then, he has met with two rounds of abuse survivors in addition to his meeting with Chilean bishops, and has sent Scicluna and Bertomeu back to Osorno to offer support and to educate in “best practices” for the handling of abuse accusations.