The Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Chile acknowledge “humbly that we have failed in our duty as Pastors in not listening to, believing, attending or accompanying the victims of grave sins and injustices committed by priests and Religious. Sometimes we didn’t react in time in face of the painful sexual abuses <and abuses> of power and authority and, therefore, we ask for the pardon, in the first place, of the victims and survivors.”
Monsignor Santiago Silva, President of the Conference, together with the Secretary General, Monsignor Fernando Ramos, made known the text of the conclusive statement of the Episcopate’s 116th Extraordinary Plenary Assembly, held from July 30 to August 3 in Punta de Tralca. The Assembly was convoked to address the situation that the Catholic Church is living in the country, particularly as a result of the grave cases of abuse committed by consecrated personnel.
Participating in the last three days of the Assembly, in addition to the Bishops, were the Vicars of the dioceses’ Pastoral, directors of CONFERRE and Religious Congregations, Deacons, lay women and lay men collaborators in the Episcopate’s national services.
“We Did Not Always Accept”
In the statement, the Bishops also expressed their repentance to “those that accompanied the victims, to their families, to those that responsibly made efforts to seek the truth, justice, reparation and purification, and to the hundreds of consecrated and lay <individuals> who daily give witness of the love, mercy and redemption of Christ, and who see themselves affected in their ministry because of the errors, sins and crimes committed. In particular, we acknowledge that we did not always accept, in all the ecclesial instances, the guidelines of the National Council of Prevention, to address opportunely the cases of sexual abuse. Our faults and omissions have caused pain and perplexity, they have affected ecclesial communion and have made conversion difficult and undermined hope.”
The Pastors state that in no way have they wanted to cause or aggravate the harm done, “however, looked at in the perspective of time, some of us could have been more active and attentive to the pain suffered by the victims, families and the ecclesial community.”
Stemming from the discernment carried out these days, the Bishops made known their decisions and commitments.
- An Annex will be included to the “Care and Hope” Guidelines, norm that governs all the country’s dioceses, regarding the full will to collaborate with the Public Ministry in handing over the antecedents on the sexual abuse of minors, guarding the names of denouncers and victims that expressly request anonymity. The text of the said annex will be made known as soon as the agreement is formalized with the National Prosecution that works in a juridical team in representation of the Episcopal Conference of Chile.
- Beginning today, we will make known publicly every previous investigation on the alleged sexual abuse of minors carried out in our jurisdictions. We request the same of the Superiors of Religious Congregations.
- Lawyer Ana Maria Brunet is appointed President of the National Council of Prevention of Abuses and Accompaniment of Victims.
- New attributions and competencies are approved of the National Council of Prevention of Abuses and Accompaniment of Victims:
- Henceforth it will follow the implementation of the “Care and Hope” Guidelines in the dioceses, both in the reception of the denunciations, in the accompaniment of victims, in the measures of prevention and in the adequate formation of pastoral agents.
- It will gather updated information on the number of previous investigations and criminal proceedings underway in our country.
- A Department of Prevention of Abuses is created to carry out the guidelines of the National Council. Its Executive Director will be Pilar Ramirez Rodriguez.
- The said Department is given the faculty to receive denunciations of abuses in keeping with the canonical norm, a faculty that neither annuls nor does away with the instances of the dioceses and the Institutes of Consecrated Life.
- The names of clerics with definitive civil and canonical sentences for the abuse of minors will be put on the Council’s Website www.iglesia.cl/prevenirabusos
- The Bishops commit themselves “to increase our availability to meet personally, each Bishop, with victims of abuses committed by clerics of our jurisdictions who are willing to do so, to receive them, listen to them and put ourselves, together with our reception teams, at their disposition for anything that helps to heal the wounds. We request this same sign from the Superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life.”
- Considering that recognition, truth and justice are always the first steps to reparation, they commit themselves “with the help of the National Council of Prevention of Abuses to seek common criteria in the processes of reparation to the victims of abuse.”
- They commit themselves “to continue promoting permanent formation to prevent abuses in all the consecrated personnel and pastoral agents of the dioceses, and the accreditation of formators. We are requesting the same of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and, particularly, of those responsible for the Church’s educational instances.”
- They commit themselves “to elaborate and implement a protocol of good treatment that will seek to foster relations based on respect of the person’s dignity in parish, communal and educational environments, especially directed to those that exercise offices of authority, directive responsibilities and those that attend persons. We will also elaborate a code of behavior for ordained ministers. Both instruments will be made known in April of 2019.”
- Taking up Pope Francis’ appeal, the Bishops commit themselves “to promote intensely the participation of lay men and women in ecclesial instances, generating environments of sincerity, frankness and constructive criticism with the consecrated, in a communal experience as “people of God.”
- They also commit themselves to “engage in a self-critical look at the structural aspects of our dioceses that make possible the occurrence and perpetuation of abuse in the Church, so that these deeds are never again repeated. In this context, we will stimulate permanent renewal in the councils and teams of pastoral management and conduction at the diocesan and parish level, with special accent on women’s participation, especially in decision-making instances.”
Valuation of Study Limitation Periods
The Bishops value “the will to study the legally prescribed limitations of the different crimes of the sexual abuse of minors contained in the State legislation, so that the passage of time doesn’t inhibit the possibility of sanctioning such illicit <deeds> and of proceeding to the processes of reparation in its diverse aspects.”
And they add: “We know that the short and medium-term decisions and commitments that we have announced today, don’t solve, on their own, the tragic scourge of abuse in our Church, and the complex causes and roots of it.”
Amend, Perfect and Give Guarantees
The Bishops hold that it corresponds to each Pastor and Religious Superior to “amend, perfect and give the appropriate guarantees, in regard to their jurisdictions. It corresponds to all of us baptized men and women, who make up the people of God, to exercise our responsibility in the Church’s mission, with an adult and critical attitude in the weaving of the communal fabric.”
Likewise, they hold that “the State, judicial, political and social instances are also called to fulfill, from each of their environments, the mission to watch over the care of boys and girls and adolescents and to seek more appropriate legislation to punish abuse and promote its prevention. From the Church, they can count on all our willingness.”
Finally, they express their “closeness to all the lay men and women, women and men Religious, Deacons and priests who experience distress over these grave and contradictory episodes and, from the shared suffering, have not failed to proclaim their faith in Christ and to serve others in the communion of the Church.”
The statement concludes entrusting these resolutions to the Virgin Mary “who, even with the suffering next to her Son, was able to accompany the disciples and encourage them again in hope and in the certainty that the Risen Christ is the center of our life and the source of our mission.”
Statement, Decisions and Commitments of the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Chile
EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE OF CHILE