Pope Francis

Pope Francis has defrocked notorious Chilean priest Fernando Karadima, making what the Vatican calls an "exceptional" decision based on his own conscience and concern for the good of the Catholic Church. Karadima has been the face of the church's sexual abuse scandal in Chile.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute recently released a survey conducted in early August asking for opinions on a wide range of topics regarding the Catholic Church and social issues.

One topic that stood out was how Pope Francis and the Catholic Church has handled cases of sexual abuse.

For centuries, the words "Vatican" and "intrigue" have gone hand in hand. But the Holy See's centuries-old code of secrecy ensured that scandals and conspiracies usually remained hidden behind the tall and sturdy Renaissance walls of the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, unbeknownst to the faithful masses around the world.

Now, in the era of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, mudslinging between rival church factions is being waged out in the open.

A former Vatican ambassador to the United States alleges in a 7,000 word letter that top Catholic Church officials, including Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, were long aware of sexual misconduct allegations against former D.C. archbishop Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Last month, McCarrick resigned amid claims he sexually abused seminarians.

Pope Francis landed in Dublin on Saturday, his visit eclipsed by the latest sex abuse scandal that touched at least a thousand people in Pennsylvania and opened wounds in Ireland.

As he disembarked from the plane, the pope was greeted by Ireland's Deputy Premier and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, his wife and their three daughters. One of the girls then presented Pope Francis with a bouquet of flowers.

Gregorio Borgia / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

As a Roman Catholic, I’m supposed to be encouraged by the anguished letter Pope Francis issued this week. The one in which he condemns the monstrous and never-ending “atrocities” of sexual abuse of children by priests – and their equally monstrous and never-ending cover-up by bishops.

But I’m not hopeful.

That’s because aside from being a Catholic I’m also a Latin Americanist – and I know how badly Francis, the first Latin American pope, failed Latin America in this crisis. That's why Latin Americans, particularly South Americans, seem to understand that this criminal tragedy won’t be solved by a papal crackdown on the priesthood. It can only really be addressed by a papal crack-up of that priesthood.

The Catholic Church now formally considers the death penalty "inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person" and is pledging to work for its abolition worldwide.

It's a shift for the church, which used to consider the death penalty a "means of safeguarding the common good" in response to "certain crimes." The update to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the book of official teachings of the church, was announced Thursday.

Pope Francis has added his voice to the growing chorus of those decrying the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" policy on illegal border crossings that has resulted in the separation of parents and children traveling together.

In January, Pope Francis traveled to South America to spread peace and hope. Many cheered him on, but he also wound up causing emotional pain when he dismissed accusations that Chilean clergy had covered up sexual abuse.

In the weeks that followed, the Vatican's leading sex crimes investigator looked into the allegations, and the pope did an about-face: He acknowledged making mistakes.

Now, Francis has been apologizing and listening to some of those he offended most.

Updated at 3:10 a.m. ET

Pope Francis has acknowledged "serious mistakes" in his handling of Chile's sex abuse scandal and summoned the country's bishops to an emergency meeting in Rome to discuss the matter.

Francis blamed a lack of "truthful and balanced information" for misjudging the situation concerning Bishop Juan Barros, who he appointed to the small diocese of Osorno in 2015 despite allegations that he had helped cover up abuse by his mentor, the Rev. Fernando Karadima.

Every Sunday when he is at the Vatican, Francis ends his remarks to the crowd in St. Peter's Square with a typical Italian saying: "Have a good lunch and arrivederci."

It's that common touch that has so endeared the Argentine-born pope to millions of people across the world, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, since his election five years ago, on March 13, 2013. But in recent months, Francis has also become the target of criticism on various fronts, and the image of him as charismatic reformer has suffered some hits.

When Pope Francis visited Chile earlier this month, he lashed out at victims of sexual abuse and accused them of "calumny" regarding a bishop who is suspected of covering up abuse they endured by a pedophile priest.

The pope said there was "not a shred of evidence" against Chilean Bishop Juan Barros. "The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros," he said, "I'll speak."

Now the pope is sending a top envoy on a mission to Chile to look into survivors' claims.

Caught in a renewed firestorm of controversy, Pope Francis apologized for remarks he made last week defending a Chilean bishop accused of covering up decades of sexual abuse. But the pontiff held fast in his support of the bishop, maintaining his innocence.

Pope Francis has accused victims of sexual abuse in Chile of slander, saying their attacks on a bishop who's accused of covering up the abuse amount to "calumny." The remarks triggered anger and demonstrations in Chile, where several churches have been firebombed in the past week.

Updated at 8:40 a.m. ET

Pope Francis, arriving in Chile to begin a three-day visit, opened his trip by asking for forgiveness over a local priest-abuse scandal that has left the country reeling — and prompted a less-than-warm reception for the Argentine-born pontiff.

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