Will all of this help a misguided pope who blames bad information rather than his own invectives to change course and recover the majesty that is the Glorified Risen Lord's Church?
From Whispers in the Loggia:
Amid Abuse Probe's Hearing of "Many Crucified Lives," Pope Summons Chile to Rome
Released on roughly an hour's warning, the six-page typed missive – dated Sunday – was made public at Francis' insistence at 8pm Rome time in an unusual joint issue by both the Chilean episcopal conference and the Holy See Press Office.
In his message, addressing the 2,300-page dossier compiled last month by Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta – the Vatican's onetime lead prosecutor of abuse cases – the pontiff aimed to "beg for the forgiveness of all who I have offended," ostensibly in light of his prior, repeated defenses of Bishop Juan Barros, a protege of the country's most infamous predator priest, Fr Fernando Karadima.
In numerous earlier instances, Francis sought to base the opposition to Barros – whose 2015 appointment to a diocese sparked ongoing protests – on "calumny" and "Leftists who orchestrated all this." By contrast, the Pope's letter said that his reading of the interviews taken by Scicluna and a priest currently on staff at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith "bring me pain and shame."
Even as the duo form the centerpiece of the entire fiasco, neither Barros nor Karadima – the latter restricted to a life of prayer and penance, but not dismissed from the clerical state – were cited by name in the letter.
Beyond issuing an extraordinary summons of all the Chilean bishops to the Vatican to discuss the situation – which the body's president subsequently said would take place over the third week of May – the Pope said he would likewise meet with at least some of the 64 victims interviewed "over the coming weeks," in the hope of expressing his apology personally.
Notably, Francis' letter made an explicit point of "thanking the various organizations and the means of communication for their professionality in treating this very delicate case, respecting the right of citizens to be informed and the good name of those who spoke out." That line was a starkly direct hit at the criticism voiced by Santiago's retired Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, 84 – a hand-picked member of the pontiff's "Gang of Nine" lead advisers – who blamed "profit" motives by Karadima's victims, Barros' own interviews and general media coverage of the abuse eruption for a "parallel focus" of bad optics that trailed the Pope over his January visit to the country.
Yet in another sign that Francis' Latin impatience had hit a boiling point – just with a fresh target – this week's letter rapped the Chilean bench in these memorable words: "Sometimes, when evils rumple our souls and throw us into the world, scared and buttoned-up inside our comfortable 'winter palaces,' the love of God goes into our encounter and makes our intentions pure, that we might love as free, mature and [self]critical men."
Albeit discreetly, today's move garnered a thumbs-up from the camps of both Scicluna and another of "Gang" member, Boston's Cardinal Seán O'Malley OFM Cap., who arguably extended the scandal's visibility and range by publicly criticizing Francis after Papa Bergoglio's in-flight blast at victim-survivors seeking Barros' removal during the January trek.
Even if the letter made no clear determination on Barros' fate, the writing there is essentially on the proverbial wall. Well more, though, the message released today puts the fate of two even more critical figures in the balance: Errazuriz, for reasons stated above, not to mention being considerably past Conclave age yet still in Francis' official "inner circle"...
...and above all, the prelate long described as the last Vatican "Sacred Cow" which Francis hasn't dared touch – Cardinal Angelo Sodano: at age 90 still Dean of the College, who as Nuncio to Chile (1977-90) was said to be closely allied with Karadima, then as John Paul II's all-powerful Secretary of State worked to squelch the CDF's probe into the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr Marcial Maciel, who Benedict XVI could only banish from ministry after his election as Pope and a long Curial war, going on to place the entire community under Apostolic Visitation.
as an auxiliary bishop.
On paper, the appointment was a considerable demotion – and, given the duo's history, a shocking one. But in a reality only to become clearer with time, that stealth nod was the clearest sign of the Resignation to come – a departing Pope's sense of his best shot to protect the aide who did the bulk of his footwork in purging at least 3,000 abusive clerics worldwide.
Maybe now, five and a half years later, you lot might finally begin to grasp why these things occurred as they did....
To say nothing of the stakes now ahead.