Catholic assembly sorts out the Church’s black sheep

SANTIAGO – Chilean bishops held a four-day emergency assembly, from July 30 to August 03, to tackle cases of child abuse. A release assured that priest Renato Toro Medina is to face an internal trial, and that the cleric has been relieved of his duties.   

Chile’s Catholic Church summoned all bishops to discuss the child abuse cases that continue to emerge. The plenary assembly took place in Punta de Tralca, Valparaíso region, behind closed doors for the first two days, but allowing abuse victims to take part during the last two days.

Juan Ignacio González, president of the commission to avoid sexual abuse, said “this is the first time we all meet since April.”

According to Catholic Church news service aciprensa, the aim of the assembly is to find the root of the current situation and to define overall protocols to follow in light of abuse accusations. “We are aware that the Lord Jesus Christ knows well how to renew well-disposed hearts,” said Santiago Silva, president of the Episcopal Conference.

Renato Toro Medina’s case was among the topics discussed during the assembly. In a press release, Temuco’s diocese informed about a new denouncement alleging abuse perpetrated by the priest. The Church also declared that the case has already been sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Toro had been suspended between 2012 and 2015 for child abuse, but the latest denouncement refers to a case taking place between 1983 and 1984.

New abuse cases emerge regularly in Chile. According to aciprensa, Temuco’s diocese just declared that Jaime Valenzuela Pozo, vicar of Perquenco’s parish, was accused of abusing a child in 2002. Valenzuela is currently off duty and faces an investigation. Late last month, Puerto Montt’s archbishopric unveiled that Dionisio Muñoz Aro is accused of having abused a child in 1990. Talca’s diocese informed about the closure of the investigation against priest Marlo Beltrán González, accused of improper behavior.

Confronted with so many cases of abuse, the Catholic Church faces the great challenge of winning back trust. During the assembly, however, more cases could be exposed – but perhaps that’s the beginning of a cathartic moment for the Chilean church.

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