This statement by the Chilean Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church on August 3 follows years of silence and inaction over the widespread sexual abuse of children by members of the Chilean clergy and lay community members. The allegations are now under the lens of prosecutors.
The scandal has reverberated beyond Chile. Earlier this year Pope Francis gave a stout public defence of one bishop accused of covering up sexual abuse reports, prompting criticism from those who feel the church sought to downplay the suffering of victims. A subsequent 2,300-page report commissioned by the Vatican found Chilean church leaders failed to investigate abuse allegations and moved accused wrongdoers to different parishes. The pope later apologised, and so far has accepted the resignation of five bishops. Earlier this month the Chilean Bishops' Conference announced measures to prevent further abuse within the Church, a plan that was applauded by the pontiff.
The burgeoning crisis comes amid a dramatic decline in Catholicism across Latin America and beyond. A sexual abuse scandal in 2010 involving Father Fernando Karadima accelerated the evaporation of active support for Catholicism in Chile. The 2013 election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as pope was considered by many Catholic observers a way to arrest the slide in support for Catholicism across Latin America, yet Chile has become a Catholic-minority nation during his papacy.
The Stream will look at the details of the abuse scandal, how the Catholic Church can address the rights of survivors, and its future in Chile and the wider region.