21 May 2018
With their resignation en masse late last week, the bishops of Chile have put Pope Francis between a rock and a hard place. Basically, he has three options: accept all of them; accept some of them; accept none of them.
If he accepts them all, he leaves the Church in Chile headless, while owning utterly every awful thing that may yet emerge as the crisis unfolds – there is a great deal more in the way of awful things that must come out, if the Church in the country is to recover – and the Chilean crisis is far from over.
If he accepts some, his every decision will be scrutinised, and he is bound to make mistakes – and if he takes his time and does it right, as he ought to, the Church will remain paralysed in the meantime and the evil men he has heretofore at least tacitly (though not always tacitly) supported will have time and opportunity to maneuver. A few – like bishops Juan Barros of Osorno, Horacio Valenzuela of Talca, and Tomislav Koljatic of Linares – are no-brainers. These men were protégés of the disgraced celebrity paedophile priest, Fernando Karadima: they were just the sort of men abusers seek systematically to insinuate into power structures for their own protection and advancement. Others are not.
If he accepts none of them, he will have to try some of them. Those trials will presumably take place under the procedural rules laid out in the Apostolic Letter motu proprio, As a Loving Mother, though the dispositions given in that letter remain essentially untried. There will be a learning curve. There will also need to be significant investment in the Vatican court system, which is already overloaded, underfunded, and not exactly bursting at the seams with enthusiasm for the work. Confidence in the ability of the Vatican to administer justice is therefore also very low, indeed.