In 2015 Pope Frances appointed Bishop Juan Barros to lead the diocese in Osorno Chile, the very city in which I started my mission in the mid 1970’s. But this appointment was not without controversy. Barros was accused of covering up sexual abuse by his mentor, Father Karadima. The Pope ignored and dismissed these allegations and appointed him anyway.
Fast forward to this year, and in January during his visit to Chile he said he was convinced Barros was innocent. This created so much uproar by Catholics in Chile (churches were firebombed!) that when he got home the Pope sent investigators to get to the bottom of the cover-up allegations. They listened to 64 testimonies of people affected by the scandal, and found out that the abuse was much more widespread than previously expected. In the end 80 additional priests were implicated in addition to Father Karadima. The result was a 2300 page report out last month showed that Barros did cover up the abuse. So what did the Pope do? Call his lawyers? Bury the report to never see the light of day? Nope, he apologized.
This week he called all the Bishops from Chile to Rome, to meet with him and discuss how to make this right. From a Jesuit Newspaper called America is the following passage about the letter to the Chilean Bishops:
In his letter, the pope acknowledged his own “responsibility” for handling the appointment of Bishop Barros to Osorno and the reaction to it and “serious errors” he had made “in the assessment and perception of the situation, especially because of the lack of truthful and balanced information.” After asking forgiveness from all those he had offended, he urged the Chilean bishops to prepare for the summit with prayer, reflection and a spirit of “magnanimity” so that “it would be the Spirit who would guide us with his gift, and not our interests or, even worse, our wounded pride.”
I was wondering if the LDS church had a scandal of this magnitude, how they might handle it. Does their handling of the MTC case give us a window into their thinking on things like this? Do you think that the Catholic church problems in Chile are talked about by the Q15? Would they use that to learn from the Catholic Church’s mistakes? Or do they think that nothing like that could ever happen to them?
If the LDS church ever had a scandal like this, would they admit that mistakes were made, or would they call their lawyers and hunker down? Can the church move away from Elder Oaks’ proclamation that the church doesn’t “seek apologies, and we don’t give them.”? Could the members handle a prophet that admits “serious errors” were made? Would this just open a can of worms about past mistakes?