Pope Francis Defrocks 2 Chilean Priests In Deepening Sex Abuse Scandal

Oct 13, 2018
Originally published on October 14, 2018 7:22 am

Pope Francis has expelled two retired Chilean clerics from the priesthood. In a statement Saturday, the Vatican announced that the two men, Archbishop Emeritus Francisco José Cox Huneeus and Bishop Emeritus Marco Antonio Órdenes Fernández, were defrocked "as a consequence of manifest abuse of minors."

The Vatican said the move made Thursday by the pontiff cannot be appealed.

The announcement came the same day that Chilean President Sebastian Pinera paid a visit to Vatican City to speak with the pope in private. Their conversation focused on "the painful scourge of abuse of minors," according to the Vatican, and affirmed their "collaboration to combat and prevent the perpetration of such crimes and their concealment."

The pair certainly have a lot to discuss on that front.

A wide-ranging sexual abuse scandal has roiled Chile in recent months, including the deposition of a prominent — and notorious — priest just over two weeks ago. A Vatican tribunal in 2011 forced Fernando Karadima to retire after finding him guilty of sexually abusing dozens of minors, but the octogenarian retained his sacerdotal robes — that is, until late last month, when he was removed from the priesthood.

Karadima is far from the only figure to fall from a position of power amid the controversy that has racked the Catholic Church in Chile.

A handful of bishops — including Juan Barros, the man accused of covering up Karadima's abuse in the 1980s and '90s — resigned earlier this year over how they handled the scandal. And Chilean police raided the offices of the Catholic Church in multiple cities in June, seeking evidence in their investigations against priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

The sex abuse scandal extends well beyond Chile's borders. Allegations have also surfaced in Europe, Australia and the U.S.

On Friday, Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Before becoming the archbishop of Washington, D.C., Wuerl presided as bishop of Pittsburgh for nearly two decades — a span that a Pennsylvania grand jury investigated as part of its 900-page probe into sexual abuse allegations against the clergy.

That report, which found evidence of a cover-up perpetrated by Wuerl and his administration, also dredged up credible claims against some 300 "predator priests" in Pennsylvania alone. The report has also prompted calls for further investigations in other states.

Francis himself has come under fire for how he has handled the scandal. The pope appointed Barros to his bishopric in 2015 over the vehement objections of local Catholics — only to apologize earlier this year for making "serious errors of judgement and perception."

That was not good enough for Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the Vatican's former ambassador to the U.S. Viganò published an 11-page letter in August demanding that the pope step down for how he has handled the alleged abuse and cover-up.

Still, Francis has made moves toward implementing more transparency in recent weeks — including in the Vatican's announcement of the two Chilean priests' defrocking. Eschewing its typical brevity with statements of this kind, the Vatican opted for an explanation that was, well, slightly less brief.

It explained the reasons for the laicization of the two men, referring to a Catholic document of procedural norms and even pointing out the precise provision they violated — a section that asserts the pope has the right to dismiss clerics from the priesthood in "the most grave cases."

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