The Fixer


The National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC) applauds the efforts of the two survivors on the papal commission regarding sexual abuse, Marie Collins of Ireland and Peter Saunders of the United Kingdom along with the two other commission members who supported their efforts to raise the issue at the Vatican of the unacceptability — to put it mildly — of Bishop Barros’ appointment and installation as the head of the Diocese of Osorno, Chile.

Survivors in Chile accuse Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid of covering up for the Rev. Fernando Karadima whom the Vatican convicted of abuse in 20011. Three Chilean survivors accuse Barros of witnessing their abuse by Karadima

While we applaud the actions of the commission members, we are appalled that they are the people who had to initiate the action to speak with the commission chair, Cardinal Sean O’Malley and through him seek to get the attention of Pope Francis.

Cardinal O’Malley, who not only is president of the papal sexual abuse comission but is a member of the Pope’s kitchen cabinet, formally known as the Council of Nine, gets a newspaper and has access to radio, television, and Internet – and as a blogging Cardinal he certainly knows how to use the technology of communications.

He is not unaware by a longshot of the protests and objections to Bishop Barros and the reasons why this appointment needs to be rescinded.

It is Cardinal O’Malley who should have assured the members of the papal sexual abuse commission that he had already contacted Pope Francis and the issue would be front and center on this week’s meeting of the Council of Nine with Pope Francis, eliminating any need for the survivors and the other two commission members to travel to Rome or entreat him to seek redress of this appointment that insults and hurts survivors.

But Cardinal O’Malley didn’t take that action. He continued his long history as a fixer for the Vatican regarding sexual abuse beginning with his appointment in 1992 as the bishop of Fall River, MA as a clean up action of the revelations of the notorious abuser James Porter.

Sitting at a meeting with survivors and agreeing to convey their sentiments to another authority is a hallmark of Cardinal O’Malley’s. He has finely honed the skill of the appearance of action and empathy.

If you enjoy theater, Cardinal O’Malley’s performance that builds yet another protective tent for hierarchs while continuing to disguise him as a champion of reform is stellar.

The news reports of the meeting that the commission members held with Cardinal O’Malley on Sunday evening reveal that all Cardinal O’Malley agreed to do was raise the issue with Pope Francis. An issue, mind you, that the commission members had to bring to him, not one that he could see beforehand.

We have no doubt that Cardinal O’Malley was true to his word. He brought the issue up at a session of the Council of Nine with Pope Francis present. What that did was result in the speaking about what the Pope and Cardinals already know — there is opposition to the appointment of Bishop Barros by survivors and members of the papal abuse commission.

ZENIT’s report of the Council of Nine’s meeting includes these paragraphs (Ninth Meeting of the Council of Nine Concludes):

During the meeting of the Council of Cardinals, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, president of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, discussed the theme of accountability regarding superiors (either bishops or religious) of priests involved in cases of abuse.

The Council went on to evaluate the methods and procedures in confronting the “failure of responsibility” and “abuse of office” on the part of authorities responsible for supervising.

According to Fr. Lombardi, Cardinal O’Malley met on Sunday with members of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, who asked him to “make present to the Pope their worries on those who have important roles in the Church and their qualifications for assuming adequate responsibility for the protection of minors.”

A “precise and reliable legal text” will thus be assessed that defines the responsibilities of superiors, Fr. Lombardi said.

What Cardinal O’Malley has done is open a huge umbrella of protection for Bishop Barros.

Cardinal O’Malley, as he is expert at doing, has pushed the ephemeral, ever promised “accountability”, once again into that beautiful future that is always described and tantalizingly almost within reach — but never arrives.

in the wonderful future constructed by Cardinal O’Malley to protect his brother bishops while looking like he is taking up the cause of survivors, Barros will not have failed at responsibility. His “failure” will have occurred before he was appointed as a bishop when he had no “responsibility” — outside of a moral one but, hey, he was only a priest not a bishop.

No “precise and reliable legal text” that may or may not come about in the future will touch him — nor any of his colleague bishops who have aided and abetted the rape and sodomy of children by protecting the clerics and religious men and women who molested them.

And no one is promising that any such “reliable and legal text” will be adopted, only as the statement says that it will be “assessed.” Cue the mack truck, please.

If Pope Francis wanted to hear the survivors he could have met with them in the Saint Martha guesthouse or any place in the Vatican. If he wanted to talk with the Chilean victims he could.

If Cardinal O’Malley really wanted to make a difference he could. After all, he has a telephone and we know Pope Francis has one. So does Cardinal Marc Ouellet who heads the Congregation for Bishops.

This issue could have been resolved before the appointment was made, at the time the survivors made known their views in news stories, when the interruption of Bishop Barros’ installation ceremony took place, when the numerous letters and contacts were made to Pope Francis, and before the Vatican issued the statement of the Congregation for Bishops backing the already-made appointment.

Whenever a ranking prelate wants to quash the appointment of a cleric to a bishopric it happens — let alone when a pope objects.

We hope that all men and women of goodwill remember that bishops become bishops and remain as bishops because of the actions of popes — including very popular and charming popes.

There is much more at work in this appointment. The influence of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who has had overbearing influence in Chilean matters, cannot be discounted.

Cardinal O’Malley knows that.

He also knows that Cardinal Ouellet is sitting as the Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops because of the number of votes he received for pope in the last conclave.

Cardinal O’Malley also knows that it borders on the near-impossible that Bishop Barros’ appointment will be rescinded.

Now, the only face-saving action for Pope Francis and the Vatican and Bishop Barros is for Bishop Barros to — or appear to — voluntarily resign.

If he wanted to, Cardinal O’Malley could be a fixer for that.

—- Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC)



One thought on “The Fixer

  1. Betty Clermont

    “The influence of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who has had overbearing influence in Chilean matters, cannot be discounted.” Indeed, Sodano vetted all of JPII’s Latin American appointments including Bergoglio’s rise from Jesuit exile to cardinal in Chile’s closest neighbor. Additionally, Pope Francis appointed Parolin, variously described as a “student of,” “close to,” and “protege of” Sodano, as his secretary of state. Juan Carlos Cruz noted, as cardinal primate of Argentina, Bergoglio was bound to be intimately familiar with the entire Karadima scandal. The pope should not be “distanced” from this story.


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