By Sarah Mac Donald - 06 February, 2018
Pope Francis is once again under fire over his appointment and defence of the controversial Chilean Bishop of Osorno, Juan Barros, after AP (Associated Press) revealed on Monday that he had received a letter in 2015 detailing the sexual abuse of Juan Carlos Cruz by Fr Juan Karadima, which the letter said Bishop Barros knew about.
During his visit to Chile in January, Pope Francis caused a storm when he told reporters that until he was presented with “proof” that Bishop Barros covered up Karadima’s sexual abuse, the allegations against him were “calumny.”
On his plane journey back to Rome, he appeared to back-peddle on his calumny assertion but he still stood by Barros, saying he believed he was innocent and that he hadn’t seen any victims. “No one has come forward. They haven’t provided any evidence for a judgment,” he told reporters.
However, AP obtained a copy of a letter written by Juan Carlos Cruz in 2015 to the Pope detailing the sexual abuse he was subjected to by Karadima, and which Cruz said Barros was aware of and took no action on.
In April 2015, a number of members of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors expressed their concern about the appointment of Juan Barros as Bishop of Osorno. Among those was Dublin clerical abuse survivor Marie Collins. The group presented Juan Carlos Cruz’s eight-page letter to Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who chairs the papal commission, and a photograph was taken of Marie Collins handing the letter to the Cardinal. The Commission members and Juan Carlos Cruz were later assured by Cardinal O’Malley that he had given the letter to the Pope.
“When we gave him (O’Malley) the letter for the Pope, he assured us he would give it to the Pope and speak of the concerns,” Marie Collins told the AP. “And at a later date, he assured us that that had been done.”
Cruz told AP on Sunday that, “Cardinal O’Malley called me after the Pope’s visit here in Philadelphia and he told me, among other things, that he had given the letter to the Pope — into his hands.” Commission member Catherine Bonnet, a French child psychiatrist, took the photo of Collins handing the letter to Cardinal O’Malley.
The Boston Cardinal’s strong words of 20 January in which he criticised Pope Francis’ words about the need for victims to bring him proof are now better understood in light of the AP’s revelations.
In his statement, Cardinal O’Malley said the Pope’s words were “a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse,” and that such expressions had the effect of abandoning victims and relegating them to “discredited exile.”
A day later, Francis apologised for having demanded “proof” of wrongdoing by Barros, saying he meant merely that he wanted to see “evidence.” But he continued to describe the accusations against Barros as “calumny” and insisted he had never heard from any victims.
The Vatican has so far failed to respond to the AP revelation.
Last week, the Vatican announced that “following recently received information” regarding Bishop Barros it was appointing Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta to conduct an investigation into the matter.
Marie Collins, who resigned from the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) last March over curial resistance to reform and bishops’ accountability, tweeted that she hoped Archbishop Scicluna would talk to survivors of Karadima still in Chile and to Juan Carlos Cruz who lives and works in the USA.
She said it was “a pity the Pope did not do this before making his recent comments”.