Understandably, virtually all of the space right now in the global media reserved for Catholic coverage is entirely focused on the unfolding drama in Rome, after a sensational accusation by a former papal ambassador to the U.S. that Pope Francis was told in 2013 of misconduct concerns about ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and ignored the warning.
Yet that’s not the only thing bubbling in the Catholic world, even when it comes to the Church’s clerical abuse scandals. Here’s a sampling of other storylines, in this case from Latin America.
In Chile the buzz continues, but nothing is happening
In a document hand-delivered by Francis in May to every Chilean bishop who’d been summoned to Rome to deal with the country’s abuse crisis, the pontiff said he needed to remove people from positions of authority while acknowledging that alone wouldn’t be enough to achieve real reform.
Francis wrote that the “special mission” of two investigators he’d dispatched had been designed to “help find the light to adequately treat an open wound, one which hurts and is complex, and which for a long time hasn’t stopped bleeding in the lives of so many people, and as such, in the life of the People of God.”
Since then, Francis has accepted the resignation of five Chilean bishops, without giving an explanation as to why, and many clergy and laity in the country, particularly abuse survivors, are getting frustrated.
Father Eugenio de la Fuente, who was in a group of nine persons, including priests and laity, from Chile who met with Francis after his encounter with the bishops, recently published a letter in the local newspaper El Mercurio, in which he said that canonical processes against bishops and cardinals “must be made public.”
“There must be clear and transparent protocols available for the whole Church, so that the people of God know when those processes were initiated and when closed,” he said.
The five bishops whose resignations have been accepted include Juan Barros, former bishop of Osorno, who’s long been accused of covering up for Father Fernando Karadima, found guilty not only of sexual abuse but also abuses of conscience and power. On the same day, the pontiff accepted the resignation of Bishop Gonzalo Duarte of Valparaiso, who’s accused not only of cover-up but of abusing seminarians himself.
In his letter to El Mercurio, De La Fuente names Duarte, noting that no response has been given by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith nor the papal embassy in Chile regarding the allegations made against the bishop, the first of which came in 2008.
“It’s essential that the Catholic people know the reasons why the resignations [of bishops] are accepted, even more so if in some cases there are allegations against those bishops,” he wrote, before quoting American Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, head of the papal Commission for the Protection of Minors.
“Catholics have lost patience with us, and civil society has lost confidence in us,” O’Malley said in an August 17 statement. The cardinal, currently investigating allegations of misconduct in his own archdiocesan seminary, also said “time is running short” for those who are in positions of leadership within the Church.
Many observers believe Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, of Santiago, is also a good candidate for having his resignation accepted, as he’s been summoned by the civil prosecutor’s office to testify on charges that he’d covered up at least one case of clerical sexual abuse.
Ezzati had been asked to appear on August 21 to discuss the “eventual responsibility he might have in the crime of covering up,” yet on the eve of the appointment the prosecutor’s office said that the prelate’s defense team had requested a delay to have enough time to look through the alleged charges.
Juan Carlos Cruz, a survivor of Karadima, took to Twitter on Monday after the letter accusing the pope of cover-up came out, saying he hoped this week would also bring news of the “firing of mobster and corrupt Chilean bishops and cardinals … there are many to be fired still,” he says, before listing several, including Ezzati and Tomislav Koljatic, another of the four bishops mentored by Karadima.
In Nicaragua, a cardinal is pressuring the government
Though violent and deadly clashes between authorities and protesters beginning in April seem to have toned down, the situation of civil unrest and calls for the resignation of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, continue.
Recently there’s been an increase on people detained by authorities, which has led Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, Archbishop of Managua and President of the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference, to appeal for an end of the arrests on Sunday, warning that such measures do not achieve the peace proclaimed by the government.
“I urge, as a pastor, to those people who have that initiative [of capturing protesters] to stop, as it does nothing to foster the peace that is being proclaimed everywhere; does not relate to that concord that is proclaimed, to that stability that is spoken of,” the cardinal said.
Brenes also underlined the importance of “pacifying the country through actions and attitudes that don’t denote the opposite.”
According to the Nicaraguan paper El Nuevo Diaro, on Saturday 20 young people were detained by the national police, banning them from participating in peaceful protests demanding the release of political prisoners.
“I was informed that some young people who were captured have been released, but it’s regrettable that these situations occur, that we’re back into this situation of the population being detained; this brings tensions to the families,” Brenes said.
“I exhort those who represent us and those who are protesting to do so civilly, peacefully, as they have in practice been doing,” he said.
The cardinal said the situation was “sad” because people are asking bishops what to do because they feel “completely disarmed.”
“For this reason, I call for an end of the [detentions] and for pacific manifestations,” he said.
Furthering church/state separation in Argentina
After pro-abortion groups lost an attempt to legalize abortion until week 14 of a pregnancy when the country’s Senate voted against the proposed bill, some abortion rights supporters began rallying for greater separation of the church and the state in the pope’s country, with some 2,000 people undertaking a “massive apostacy,” a formal procedure to resign one’s baptism.
Last week, at the end of the Argentinian bishops’ conference mid-term assembly, they released a statement saying they have formally begun negotiations with the government to renounce the state’s contributions to the Church, which amount to 7 percent of its overall budget.
The bishops said the process would be “gradual” and subject to a new system of support from the laity that’s being discussed with national authorities.
The current system is based on article 2 of the national constitution, that states that the “federal government supports the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion,” as well as a decree from 1979 under Argentina’s last military government.
In practice, this translates to the government providing aid for three things: Covering the salary of the bishops, who on average make $14,400 a year; subsidizing priests who work along the national border, and the pensions of priests.
In their statement, the bishops said “it was agreed to continue deepening these alternatives and to study proposals, in order to gradually resign the allocations received by the bishops from the national government.”
Although it does not specify what those “alternatives” are, it’s taken for granted that it includes analysis of mechanisms such as those that exist in Italy, Germany and Spain, where the state provides its structure for the faithful to channel their contribution when they pay taxes each year.
The government subsidizes Catholic schools but also those of other denominations, without which, most observers say, the national educational system would collapse.