Claims that a recently appointed Chilean bishop covered for a pedophiliac priest are “slander,” the pope said during a recent visit to the country. “You, in all good will, tell me that there are victims, but I haven’t seen any, because they haven’t come forward,” he told an Associated Press reporter at the time. But the AP now reports that a victim did come forward, and that Francis personally received a letter from him detailing both the abuse and Bishop Juan Barros’s role in the cover-up:
[M]embers of the pope’s Commission for the Protection of Minors say that in April 2015, they sent a delegation to Rome specifically to hand-deliver a letter to the pope about Barros. The letter from Juan Carlos Cruz detailed the abuse, kissing and fondling he says he suffered at Karadima’s hands, which he said Barros and others saw but did nothing to stop.
Four members of the commission met with Francis’ top abuse adviser, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, explained their concerns about Francis’s recent appointment of Barros as a bishop in southern Chile, and gave him the letter to deliver to Francis.
“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,” then-commission member Marie Collins told the AP. “And at a later date, he assured us that that had been done.”
O’Malley had previously criticized Francis’s rhetoric as being “a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse.” Overall, there seems to have been few consequences either for the abusive priest, who now lives in a home for elderly priests after being removed from ministry, or for anyone who helped mask his crimes. Francis appointed Barros a bishop despite objections from local clergy and laity. It’s a major scandal: Francis’s dedication to addressing clergy abuse is now in doubt, and this could potentially leave him with fewer allies as conservative factions within the church align against his papacy.