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"Why is Angelo Sodano still influencing episcopal appointments?"

2. april 2015

Grant Gallicho, Commonweal Magazine, skriver bl.a.:

In Chile decision, Pope Francis risks reputation as reformer.

Episcopal installation Masses don’t usually involve teeming protesters, shouting matches, and popping balloons. But Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid’s did. Last Saturday, Barros was installed as bishop of Osorno, Chile, following allegations that he covered up for a sexually abusive priest who had been his mentor. “Barros, get out of the city!” chanted the demonstrators, waving black balloons. The bishop’s supporters tried to drown them out, brandishing white balloons. Some demonstrators attempted to climb the cathedral altar. The service was cut short, and Barros was escorted by police through a side door. Chile’s cardinals, along with most of its bishops, were not in attendance. Familiar with recent history, they knew it was going to be an ugly scene.

Four years ago, the Holy See found Fr. Fernando Karadima guilty of molesting minors, and ordered him to a life of “prayer and penance.” The Karadima case has been called the worst scandal ever to befall the Chilean Catholic Church. Karadima, now eighty-four, was once one of Chile’s most influential clerics. He ministered to the wealthy, and had strong ties to Chile’s elite. He developed a devoted following, molding the church’s future leaders. Four of his protégées, including Barros, later became bishops. Now, several of Karadima’s victims—once his devotees—say that Barros not only knew about the decades-old accusations and did nothing, but that he witnessed the abuse himself. Barros denies all of it, and refuses to resign.

After Barros’s appointment was announced in January, about thirteen hundred Chilean laypeople, including dozens of lawmakers, signed a petition seeking Barros’s removal. More than thirty clerics signed a letter asking the pope to reconsider his decision. Two Chilean bishops reportedly met with Francis to brief him on how difficult this has been for the local church. “The pope told me he had analyzed the situation in detail and found no reason” to remove Barros, the archbishop of Concepción, Fernando Chomalí, told the New York Times. Just before Barros’s installation service, the papal envoy to Chile announced that the bishop had his “confidence and support.”

Some had hoped that pressure brought by members of the pope’s new sexual-abuse commission—several of whom recently expressed grave reservations about the appointment—might persuade Francis to act, or Barros to resign. After all, just last month the pope said that “everything possible must be done to rid the church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused.” He even seemed to chide bishops who had used the excuse of not giving scandal to avoid addressing the issue. But yesterday the Holy See released a terse, curiously worded statement responding to the growing controversy: “Prior to the recent appointment of His Excellency Msgr. Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid as bishop of Osorno, Chile, the Congregation for Bishops carefully examined the prelate’s candidature and did not find objective reasons to preclude the appointment.” If this is Rome’s last word on Barros, then Francis should know that his decision has imperiled not only the Diocese of Osorno, but also his own reputation as a reformer.

The Barros case presents an interesting challenge to the pope’s efforts to bring the church around on the sexual-abuse scandal. The bishop is not accused of committing abuse himself. Nor is he accused of improperly handling cases of abusive priests. Indeed, he never supervised Karadima—he was merely a very close friend. Victims say that Barros covered up for Karadima, that he tried to silence them, and that he was actually present when some of them were abused—claims the bishop disputes


Why is Angelo Sodano still influencing episcopal appointments? This is a man who blocked Joseph Ratzinger from investigating the notorious abuser Marcial Maciel (founder of the Legionaries of Christ) as well as Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër, accused of molesting boys in the mid-1990s. In 2004, as John Paul II was ailing, Ratzinger finally moved forward with Maciel’s investigation. But the following year, Sodano sent a statement to the Legionaries of Christ alleging that there was no canonical proceeding against Maciel. In fact evidence was still being collected. The Legionaries happily announced that Maciel had been cleared of all wrongdoing. And in 2010, years after Maciel had been “invited” to a life of prayer and penance, Sodano offered unplanned remarks dismissing criticism of Pope Benedict’s handling of the scandal as “petty gossip”—during Easter Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s. At age eighty-seven, Sodano remains dean of the College of Cardinals.

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