According to a watchdog group that monitors clergy abuse, Pope Francis‘s claim that he’s never heard from any victims of sexually abusive priests is now called into question after it was revealed that he received a letter from a victim in 2015.
Bishopaccountability.org co-director Anne Barrett Doyle said that the revelation points to “inexcusable dysfunction at best and willful deception at worst,” ABC News reported.
The Associated Press reported this Monday that Francis received a letter in 2015 from a Chilean victim named Juan Carlos Cruz, who recounted how his abuse by a priest was witnessed and ignored by the current bishop of Osorno, Juan Barros.
According to Doyle, the Pope’s initial claim that he had “seen no evidence of Barros’ complicity” was most likely a lie.
From ABC News:
A lay Catholic group in southern Chile that has opposed a bishop accused of sex abuse cover-up says revelations by The Associated Press that Pope Francis heard directly from a victim about the problem “brings an end to his ‘zero tolerance’ rhetoric.”
Juan Carlos Claret, a spokesman for Laicos de Osorno, said Monday that the pope and his subordinates must now answer the question of “who decided to constantly discredit the testimony of the victims.”
Claret told the AP: “It’s not possible to maintain, as some do, that the pope didn’t know and that he had slanted information.
“Instead, we’re in the presence of a pope who had full knowledge of it all, and still decides to submit a community to unspeakable suffering.”
The revelations surrounding the letter call into question Francis’s claim of “zero tolerance” when it comes to sexual abuse by clergy and the cover-ups that result. During Francis’s trip to South America last month, he was met by protests from people outraged over his unwavering defense of Bishop Barros. Barros is accused by victims of covering up abuse by Rev. Fernando Karadima. During the trip, Francis called the accusations “slander” even though strong evidence suggests Barros witnessed Karadima’s crimes.
When Francis was confronted about the matter by an AP reporter, he said, “You, in all good will, tell me that there are victims, but I haven’t seen any, because they haven’t come forward.”
The existence of the 2015 letter contradicts that. According to CBS News, “members 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 witnessed and ignored.”
The Barros affair first caused shockwaves in January 2015 when Francis appointed him bishop of Osorno, Chile, over the objections of the leadership of Chile’s bishops’ conference and many local priests and laity. They accepted as credible the testimony against Karadima, a prominent Chilean cleric who was sanctioned by the Vatican in 2011 for abusing minors. Barros was a Karadima protege, and according to Cruz and other victims, he witnessed the abuse and did nothing.
In the letter, Cruz beg Francis to stay true to his claim of zero tolerance.
“Holy Father, it’s bad enough that we suffered such tremendous pain and anguish from the sexual and psychological abuse, but the terrible mistreatment we received from our pastors is almost worse,” he wrote.
Cruz described how Karadima would perform sex acts on Barros and younger priests and teens.
“More difficult and tough was when we were in Karadima’s room and Juan Barros – if he wasn’t kissing Karadima – would watch when Karadima would touch us – the minors – and make us kiss him, saying: ‘Put your mouth near mine and stick out your tongue.’ He would stick his out and kiss us with his tongue,” Cruz wrote in his letter. “Juan Barros was a witness to all this innumerable times, not just with me but with others as well.”
“Juan Barros covered up everything that I have told you,” he added.