Pope replaces Chile bishop accused of sex abuse cover-up

Santiago's Archbishop Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati (R) says goodbye during his farewell at the College of the Sacred Hearts (SSCC) of Alameda in Santiago, Chile on March 23, 2019. (AFP / Matias Delacroix)
Updated 24 March 2019
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Pope replaces Chile bishop accused of sex abuse cover-up

  • Chilean abuse survivors have long accused Ezzati and his predecessor in Santiago of protecting predator priests and discrediting victims
  • The Chile abuse scandal first erupted in 2009 when victims accused a prominent preacher of molesting them for years

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Saturday replaced Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati as archbishop of Santiago, Chile, after he was placed under criminal investigation in the country’s spiraling church sex abuse and cover-up scandal.
Francis accepted Ezzati’s resignation and named a temporary replacement to govern Chile’s most important archdiocese: the Spanish-born Capuchin friar and current bishop of Copiapo, Chile, Monsignor Celestino Aos Braco.
In a statement asking for prayers for his new job, Aos acknowledged the difficulties ahead, noting the “light and darkness, success and shortcomings, wounds and sins” of the Santiago church. But Aos too faced accusations of cover-up after a former seminarian accused him of helping stall his case years ago.
The 77-year-old Ezzati had submitted his resignation to Francis two years ago when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. But Francis kept him on, and Ezzati became the flashpoint of abuse survivors’ ire for mishandling several cases of abuse.
Just Friday, an appeals court in Chile allowed prosecutors to continue investigating Ezzati for an alleged cover-up, rejecting his motion to dismiss the case and remove himself from the probe, Chilean media reported.
Ezzati has denied covering up any cases but has acknowledged the pain of abuse victims and vowed to promote transparency.
At a press conference Saturday, he said he was leaving “with my head held high.” He insisted that all complaints that were lodged with the archdiocesan office he created in 2011 “have been investigated or are being investigated.”
Francis himself became embroiled in the Chilean scandal after initially discrediting victims during his 2018 trip to the country, sparking a crisis in confidence in the Chilean hierarchy and his own leadership.
After realizing his error and apologizing to the victims, Francis summoned all of Chile’s 30-plus active bishops to the Vatican last May and strong-armed them into offering their resignations. With Ezzati’s resignation Saturday, Francis has accepted eight of them.
Chilean abuse survivors have long accused Ezzati and his predecessor in Santiago, Cardinal Javier Errazuriz, of protecting predator priests and discrediting victims. In recent weeks, Ezzati has been embroiled in a new scandal after a man sued him for allegedly covering up his rape inside the cathedral.
The Chile abuse scandal first erupted in 2009, when victims publicly accused one of the country’s most prominent preachers, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, of molesting them for years. Errazuriz initially shelved an investigation, only to have the Vatican eventually convict Karadima in a church tribunal.
After the scandal exploded again last year, Francis stiffened the penalty against Karadima and defrocked him.
Pollsters have cited the Karadima scandal as the tipping point in the Chilean church’s progressive loss of credibility among ordinary Chileans.
Francis had sparked the recent crisis by strongly defending one of Karadima’s proteges, Bishop Juan Barros, against accusations that he had witnessed Karadima’s abuse and ignored it. But after realizing that something was amiss, Francis ordered a Vatican investigation that uncovered decades of abuse and cover-ups by the Chilean church leadership, Barros and Ezzati included.
One of Karadima’s victims and Ezzati’s harshest critic, Juan Carlos Cruz, welcomed Aos’ appointment, tweeting that “anything is better than Ezzati and his band.”
In a joint statement, he and Karadima’s other whistleblowers said they hoped Aos “would bring about a culture centered on victims and vulnerable people and no longer one of culture and cover-up.”
But a former seminarian, Mauricio Pulgar, said Aos didn’t allow him to present proof or witnesses to back up his claims of abuse by a priest, the Rev. Jaime Da Fonseca, when he first presented them in 2012.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Pulgar said Aos — who as a priest had been tasked with investigating the case in Valparaiso — “covered up abusers and one of them was Jaime Da Fonseca and that allowed him to keep abusing for six more years.”
Da Fonseca was finally defrocked last year. Aos left Valparaiso in 2014 to become bishop of Copiapo; the bishop running Valparaiso at the time was removed last year as part of Francis’ cover-up house-cleaning.
The Chilean Church did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday on Aos’ role in the Da Fonseca case.


UK PM candidate Hunt: Boris Johnson is a ‘coward’ for avoiding debates on Brexit

Updated 24 June 2019
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UK PM candidate Hunt: Boris Johnson is a ‘coward’ for avoiding debates on Brexit

  • Jeremy Hunt: It was disrespectful for Boris Johnson to turn down the opportunity for a head-to-head debate
  • Hunt says candidates should explain their Brexit positions

LONDON: Jeremy Hunt, one of the two candidates vying to replace British Prime Minister Theresa May, said on Monday that rival Boris Johnson was a coward for avoiding public head-to-head debates on what to do about Brexit.
“On the question of debates, he is being a coward,” Foreign Secretary Hunt said. “It is cowardice not to appear in head-to-head debates.”
Hunt, 52, said it was disrespectful for Johnson to have turned down the opportunity for a head-to-head debate on Sky television.
“People need to know what you’re going to do and you need to answer those questions,” Hunt said. “I promise Boris Johnson the fight of his life and he’s going to have that and he’s going to lose.”
Johnson, 55, is the favorite to win a vote of 160,000 Conservative Party members who will decide who will be the next prime minister. Betting markets give him a 79 percent implied probability of winning the top job, down from 92 percent last week.
He has cast himself as the only candidate who can deliver Brexit on October 31 — with or without a deal — while fighting off the electoral threats of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and socialist Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.
Early on Friday, police were called to Johnson’s home after neighbors heard a loud altercation between him and his girlfriend. Police said there was no cause for police action.
The Guardian newspaper, which first reported the story, said an unidentified neighbor had heard Johnson’s girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, screaming followed by “slamming and banging.” At one point, Symonds could be heard telling Johnson to “get off me” and “get out of my flat.”
Johnson declined to answer questions about the incident at a hustings event in Birmingham on Saturday.
Hunt said the personal life of Johnson was irrelevant but that the candidates should explain their Brexit positions — and specifically what would a new leader do if lawmakers tried to sink a new government heading toward a no-deal Brexit.
“If parliament takes no-deal off the table before Oct. 31, will Boris call a general election?” Hunt said. “I think a general election would be catastrophic.”
Hunt said he would seek a better deal from the EU to leave on Oct. 31 and would, if absolutely necessary, leave without a deal. If parliament took a no-deal Brexit off the table, he intimated there would have to be delay.
“In that situation, you would have to carry on negotiating,” Hunt said. “I want to leave by Oct. 31 but if parliament stops it the prime minister has to obey the law.”
Johnson repeated on Monday that he would lead the United Kingdom out of the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal.
“We are going to come out of the EU on October 31,” he wrote in The Daily Telegraph. “This time we are not going to bottle it.”
Like Hunt, Johnson promised lower taxes if he wins the top job.
When asked the naughtiest thing he had ever done, Hunt said: “When I was backpacking through India, I once had a Bhang Lassi — which is a kind of cannabis lassi — that’s the naughtiest thing I am prepared to confess to on this program.”