Pope Francis speaks as he meets with Chile's President Sebastian Pinera and his wife Cecilia Morel during a private audience at the Vatican, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. (Alessandro Bianchi/Pool Photo via AP)

Pope defrocks 2 more Chilean priests accused of sex abuse

October 13, 2018 - 5:42 am

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Saturday defrocked two more Chilean prelates accused of sexually abusing minors, and to show greater transparency about how he's responding to the church's global sex abuse crisis, the pontiff publicly explained why they were removed.

The Vatican's unusually detailed statement announcing the laicization of Jose Cox Huneeus and Marco Antonio Ordenes Fernandez signaled a new degree of transparency following past missteps that appeared to underestimate the gravity of the scandal.

Explaining the latest removals as Chile's church is called to account for decades of sexual abuse and cover-ups, the statement made clear the two were defrocked for abusing minors with evidence so overwhelming that a canonical trial was unnecessary.

Previously, the Vatican has rarely, if ever, announced laicizations of individual priests and only issued a single-line statement if a bishop had resigned, without further explanation.

Advocates for abuse survivors have long complained about the Vatican's secrecy in handling such abuse cases, and the lack of transparency when arrived at judgments.

In fact, early on in Francis' papacy, the Vatican stopped giving any information at all about the reasons why bishops might resign, rolling back its previous policy to at least reveal if was because the bishops had turned 75 and were retiring, or for some other 'grave' reason that made them unfit for office.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said Saturday's more detailed statement suggested a new trend in the way the Vatican will announce results of investigations of bishops accused of abuse.

The issue of church sex abuse came up in a papal audience earlier Saturday with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera Echenique, who also met with the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

The Vatican said both meetings discussed "the painful scourge of abuse of minors, reiterating the effort of all in collaboration to combat and prevent the perpetration of such crimes and their concealment."