Transform Apology into action! Pope Francis on Chile sexual abuse scandal: ‘I was part of the problem’


Reuters in Rome

Wed 2 May 2018


Whistleblowers have private Vatican meeting with pontiff

Survivors want deeds to match words to tackle abuse ‘epidemic’


Cover image: Bishop Juan Barros attends his first Mass at the Cathedral of St Matthew in Osorno with protestors gathered in the pews (CNS)


James kottoor“I was part of the problem. I caused this, and I apologize to you,” Francis is reported to have said. How much more can he be honest in  confessing? 

Having said that Politicians and church leaders have demanded of Pope Francis to get the resignation  of Juan Barros, who has been deeply linked to a ‘sex abuse epidemic’ in Chile, involving minors. Because the proof of the pudding is in the  eating, action needs to be taken against the culprits.

People in Chile expect this to happen, nay demand Francis to make it happen in the coming weeks. Will it happen? It should, as we see, although we are no soothsayers. As Pope John XXIII once said: “I am only the Pope” meaning he cannot be also the executor of his decrees.

Here the law enforcement mechanism of the Vatican has to do the ‘eating of the pudding’ applying its sharp teeth. Let us hope it does that job to give credibility to Francis’  zero tolerance of sex abuse on ground in Chile. We wish Indian bishops take similar steps imitating Francis to wipe out clerical sex abuse in India as well. james kottoor, editor ccv.

Please read below the Reuters report on Chile sex abuse

The three whistleblowers in Chile’s sex abuse scandal have urged Pope Francis to transform his apology for having discredited them into concrete action to end what they called the “epidemic” of sex abuse and cover-up in the Catholic church.

Chilean clerical sex abuse survivors Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo (CNS photo/Paul Haring) – Catholic Herald 3rd May 2018

Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and José Andrés Murillo spoke to reporters on Wednesday after spending five days with the pope at his Vatican hotel. Their press conference was broadcast live in Chile, a sign of the unprecedented nature of their hours of meetings with the pope. 

Cruz said that during his private encounter with Francis, the pope acknowledged: “I was part of the problem. I caused this, and I apologize to you. I believe that he was sincere,” Cruz said. 

Cruz said he believed that Francis was simply misinformed about the case of Bishop Juan Barros, whom the three men have long accused of having witnessed and ignored their abuse

Barros was a protege of the Rev Fernando Karadima, a charismatic preacher and darling of Chile’s conservative Catholic society. He was removed from ministry and sentenced by the Vatican in 2011 to live in penance and prayer for having sexually abused minors. 

Barros and other Karadima-trained bishops never acknowledged having witnessed his abuse, even though his victims have long placed them at the scene

Francis had strongly defended Barros during his January trip to Chile, calling the accusations against him “calumny”. He claimed to have never heard from victims about Barros, even though he had received in 2015 a letter from Cruz detailing Barros’s wrongdoing. 

Cruz said he did not press the pope on what he knew or when. But he said he warned him about the “toxicity” of the churchmen who had “duped him”, naming the current and former archbishops of Santiago, the Vatican’s ambassador to Chile, and members of the Chilean bishops’ conference.

Hamilton said they will probably never know the full truth about what the pope knew, but that the important thing is that the pope now is “very well-informed”. He said he was prepared to wait to see what concrete action the pontiff will take. 

“Everybody deserves, especially in this case, a second chance,” Hamilton said of the pope. Francis has summoned the entire Chilean bishops conference to Rome later this month for a dressing down and to plot reforms in the church.

In a statement, the men said they saw the “friendly face” of the church this week, after having been treated for 10 years as “enemies” of the Chilean hierarchy. 

But they warned that unless Francis takes concrete action, their talks will be in vain. They said abuse and cover-up are not just sins “but crimes and corruption that do not end in Chile but are an epidemic”.

In an additional ‘Read more’ report the Vatican reporter Stephanie Kirchgaessner gives the following as background to the above report.

Pope's promise to tackle abuse tested by appointment of Chilean bishop

Politicians and church leaders demand resignation of Pope Francis’s appointment Juan Barros, who has been linked to a sexual abuse case involving minors.


Pope Francis’s vow to stamp out sexual abuse by priests – and the Catholic church’s decades-long cover-up of such scandals – is being tested following the appointment of a bishop in Chile who has been linked to a notorious abuse case.

Politicians and some church leaders in Chile have demanded the resignation of Juan Barros, the pope’s appointment as Bishop of Osorno in southern Chile, following allegations that he helped cover up – and at times participated in – abuse against minors by his longtime mentor, a priest called Fernando Karadima.

The case has consequences far beyond Chile, given Pope Francis’s repeated promises to confront the abuse scandals. Victims’ rights activists are calling for the pontiff’s intervention in the case following an outcry by parishioners in the region.

So far, however, Barros appears to have the full weight of the Vatican behind him. Priests in Osorno say the pope’s choice has left them “confused and irritated”. 

In Santiago, the nation’s capital, Father Alex Vigueras, a priest in the congregation of the Sacred Hearts, said the appointment “is not attuned with the zero tolerance [policy on pedophilia] that is trying to be installed in the church”.

“It is hard for us to believe that [Pope Francis] would have confirmed this nomination had he had all the background information on the table,” he wrote in an editorial entitled “Bishop Juan Barros Should Resign”.

Opposition to Barros from Chile’s large and devout Catholic community is based on a number of allegations by victims who named him as a key figure in cases of sexual abuse by Karadima. They claim that he not only helped cover up the crimes, but in some instances witnessed the abuse.

Karadima was found guilty of molestation by the Vatican in 2011 and is now living a cloistered life of solitude in “penitence and prayer” in a convent in Chile. Chilean authorities dropped criminal charges against the priest in 2011 because the statute of limitations had expired.

“This man [Barros] was standing next to us when we were abused,” Juan Carlos Cruz told CNN Chile. “Juan Barros is a bad man for many reasons. I find it incredible that he is taking over a diocese like Osorno.”

A second victim, James Hamilton, has also testified that he saw Barros in the room while the abuse took place. “This is who gets named to be bishop of Osorno? For those of us who know the truth of this story – and apparently the Vatican also know – this it is unbelievable,” he told CNN.

“The Chilean people won’t take this any more, it is denigrating to the country, to our international image, to our children … We can’t tolerate this [paedophilia] not by family members, not by our bishops. This needs to stop.”

Barros has denied any wrongdoing. “I never had knowledge or imagined the serious abuses that this priest [Fernando Karadima] committed with his victim,” he said in a statement on Monday. “I have not approved or participated in these very serious and dishonest acts … I reiterate together with the entire church that there is no room in the priesthood for those who commit these abuses.”

Peter Saunders, a British abuse survivor who sits on a new papal commission to protect children, credits Pope Francis for being vocal about the abuse scandals. But he said that proof of the church’s seriousness in tackling the problem will be revealed by its action – or inaction – in cases like the one in Chile.

Saunders has also been critical of the church’s handling of another case in Missouri, where Bishop Robert Finn has remained in power even after he was convicted of failing to report clerical child sex abuse.

“If we don’t see real change, if we don’t see the likes of Bishop Finn removed immediately and this case in Chile being resolved, then the committee will be a pointless exercise,” Saunders told The Guardian.The Vatican declined to comment. Chilean politicians have entered the fray, with 51 members of Congress signing a petition that opposed Barros’s nomination.

“We believe the pope has the powers to remedy this situation,” said Fidel Espinoza, a Chilean congressman who personally delivered the letter to the Vatican and was promised it would be brought to Pope Francis’s attention. Espinoza warned of the “permanent tension” generated by “a bishop who is not beloved” by his parish.

Thirty priests from the Osorno area in the south of Chile also signed a letter expressing their opposition to Barros. “[We have] a legitimate right to be led by a bishop with integrity,” it said.

Peter Kliegel, a reverend and organiser of the protest letter, told church leaders that “the unity of the church” was threatened by the naming of a bishop “whose moral life has been publicly questioned”.

But Vatican officials in Chile are standing by Barros – for now. Ricardo Ezzati, the archbishop in Chile, has expressed his full support for Barros and said that “the bishops are going to be brothers, as we always have, supporting what we have to support”.

Outside the church where the controversial bishop is set to take the reins of power on Saturday, protesters have been holding candlelight vigils and promising to prohibit Barros from entering.

Barros predicted that the controversy would blow over. “I understand those who have felt sadness or bothered, but I have confidence that knowing one another and working together for the Osorno community we can all grow with united serenity in our so happy evangelical tasks,” he said in the statement.




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