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Bishop Juan Ignacio González Errázuriz: "The meeting on abuse has laid the foundations for effective action".

The recent meeting on the guardianship of minors held in Rome "has turned out to be an immense good for the Church and for the world." says the Bishop of San Bernardo, Juan Ignacio González, who underlines the priorities of Pope Francis. The Chilean prelate has an extensive legal career. He received his law degree from the Catholic University, was a professor at the same university, procurator, lawyer, and later, doctor in Canon Law.

Omnes-April 2, 2019-Reading time: 6 minutes

The drama of child abuse has plagued the Church in Chile, to the point that the Chilean bishops placed their office at the disposal of Pope Francis in May of last year. At the same time, the Holy Father received some victims of sexual abuse in Rome. In January of this year, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference was received by the Pope in a long meeting, which was prolonged in a lunch at Santa Marta.

In these last meetings, more selective, were present Cardinal Ezzati, the president, vice-president and secretary general of the Episcopal Conference -Bishops Santiago Silva, Rene Osvaldo Rebolledo and Luis Fernando Ramos, respectively-, and the bishop of San Bernardo, Juan Ignacio Gonzalez. As we go to press, the Pope has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Ezzati, who turned 77 years old in January, as Archbishop of Santiago de Chile, and has appointed the current Bishop of Copiapó, Bishop Celestino Aós Braco (Artaiz, Navarra, 1945), as Apostolic Administrator. 

   Days before, at the conclusion of the Roman meeting, Palabra was able to talk to Juan Ignacio González, bishop since 2003, a law graduate and doctor in Canon Law, who together with Bishop Luis Fernando Ramos was spokesman for the Chilean bishops after the historic meeting of the prelates with Pope Francis in May 2018. Here is his brief analysis.

A few weeks ago, the meeting held in Rome on the drama of abuse and the guardianship of minors in the Church came to an end. How do you evaluate it?

-The meeting convened by Pope Francis in Rome to study and reach agreements to put an end to the shameful evil of sexual abuse of minors by consecrated persons has turned out to be an immense good for the Church and for the world. It is the beginning of a new moment. Not only does it disprove the criticisms and comments about the unwillingness of the Church, the Pope and the bishops and superiors to extirpate this evil, but it has laid the foundations for new and effective action at all levels. The Church has been seriously affected by this evil, but she knows that from her own wound she must enlighten all men and women, that only from the powerful light of Christ, they can arrive at the Truth (Lumen Gentium1), to repair as far as possible the wrongs caused to specific persons who have suffered them and to adopt measures so that they do not occur in the future.

   The development of the meeting, the publicity and clarity with which things have been expressed, makes this will evident. Some nations that have already suffered particular moments of crisis (United States of America, Australia, Ireland, Chile) and where very radical and concrete measures have been adopted, are, in some way, the footprint to follow for others: guidelines, procedures, protocols, agreements with civil authorities, etc. are a part of the path to follow, but not enough, because spiritual evils must be fought with weapons of the same nature.

What would you highlight from Pope Francis' speech?

-The Pope's closing speech was strong and courageous, without sparing words, without fear. He did publicly something that few dare. He placed the sexual abuse of minors in its true context. "The first truth that emerges from the available data is that the perpetrators of abuse, i.e. violence (physical, sexual or emotional) are mainly parents, relatives, husbands of female children, coaches and educators. Moreover, according to 2017 Unicef data for 28 countries worldwide, 9 out of 10 girls, who have had forced sexual relations, report having been victims of a person known or close to the family". 

   And then he offered official data from various organizations, without forgetting to mention pornography with minors on the web, sex tourism, etc. But the Pope did not shield himself from what has been happening in the Church: "The inhumanity of the phenomenon on a worldwide scale is even more serious and scandalous in the Church, because it contrasts with her moral authority and ethical credibility. The consecrated person, chosen by God to guide souls to salvation, allows himself to be subjugated by his human frailty, or by his sickness, becoming an instrument of Satan. In the abuses, we see the hand of evil that does not even spare the innocence of children. There are not enough explanations for these abuses against children".

He used the words "mystery of evil".

-Indeed. Textually, he said: "We must humbly and courageously recognize that we are faced with the mystery of evil, which rages against the weakest because they are the image of Jesus. This is why there is a growing awareness in the Church today that we must not only try to limit the very serious abuses with disciplinary measures and civil and canonical processes, but also decisively confront the phenomenon both inside and outside the Church.".

Let's talk about the causes, and the solutions...

-Nor did the Pope shy away from looking for the causes, the real causes. "Which is, therefore, the existential "meaning" of this criminal phenomenon? Considering its breadth and human depth, today it can be none other than the manifestation of the spirit of evil. If we do not keep this dimension in mind, we will be far from the truth and without real solutions [...]. Behind and within this is the spirit of evil, which in its pride and arrogance feels itself to be the lord of the world and thinks it has conquered. I would like to tell you this with the authority of a brother and a father, certainly small and sinful, but who is the pastor of the Church who presides in charity: in these painful cases I see the hand of evil that does not even forgive the innocence of the little ones. And this leads me to think of the example of Herod who, driven by the fear of losing his power, ordered the massacre of all the children of Bethlehem. Behind this is satan". 

The Pope knows well that the solutions in the Church are not the work of sociology, psychology or medicine, which logically help, but do not completely heal the evil. And so he goes to them directly. "And just as we must take all the practical measures offered to us by common sense, science and society, we must not lose sight of this reality and take the spiritual measures that the Lord himself teaches us: humiliation, acts of contrition, prayer, penance. This is the only way to overcome the spirit of evil. This is how Jesus overcame it". 

It is the path of the centrality of Christ, so often reiterated by the Pope in his letters to the people of God in these times. If you don't go that way, you don't go anywhere. We speak, we write, but only God converts when he finds an open heart.

The Pope asked to move away from ideologies.

-Francis also sees dangers in the attitudes to be adopted in the fight against evil, which can be summarized in "to be above all ideological polemics and journalistic politics that often instrumentalize, for various interests, the same dramas experienced by the little ones.". In this line, he asked to follow the path of collaboration: "The time has come to work together to eradicate this brutality from the body of our humanity, adopting all the necessary measures already in place at the international and ecclesial levels. The time has come to find the right balance between all the values at stake and to give uniform guidelines for the Church, avoiding the two extremes of righteousness, provoked by a sense of guilt for past errors and the pressure of the media world, and self-defense. that does not address the causes and consequences of these serious crimes".

In your opinion, what are the priorities that the Pope has indicated?

-Fully aware of his responsibility, the Pope designs and proposes a way forward for the whole Church, once again going against those who say and write that there is talk but nothing is done. These are priorities on which we must base norms, procedures and common conduct: 1. The protection of minors. 2. 3. A true purification. Formation. 5. Reinforce and verify the guidelines of the Episcopal Conferences. 6. 6. Accompanying abused persons. 7. The digital world. 8. Sex tourism. 

Each of these measures is followed by a detailed explanation of its content, so it is advisable to see the Pope's complete text on the proposed topics. To day after the end of the meeting, the necessary resolutions began to be adopted in order to put them into practice. The words of St. Ambrose in the early days of the Church come true again and again: "It is only natural that in the midst of this troubled world the Church of the Lord, built on the rock of the Apostles, should remain stable and stand firm on this unshakable foundation against the furious assaults of the sea (cf. Mt 16:18). She is surrounded by the waves, but she is not tossed about, and though the elements of this world roar with an immense clamor, she nevertheless offers to those who are weary the great security of a harbor of salvation."

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