The Rubber Hits the Road


Pope Francis, of all people, cannot allow the issue of the cover up of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church to become a matter of a left and right political prism.

Or will he?

Neither can his commission on sexual abuse.

Or will they?

Pope Francis, who in a myriad of other situations, is a rise above the usual cleavages of power man, has chosen to defend the appointment of Chilean Bishop Juan Barros by defining the opposition to the appointment as falling into a politically categorized sphere with the intent of discrediting the opposition.

The video of his explanation which was filmed in May but surfaced publicly recently is in the following news story:

The core issue in this case is whether Bishop Barros of the Diocese of Osorno covered up abuse.

On September 27, the day of his departure from Philadelphia, Pope Francis met with sexual abuse victims. What he said to the victims was released in a transcript provided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He spoke publicly about his meeting with sexual abuse victims before a gathering of United States bishops and bishops from other parts of the world on the same day.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops transcript quotes Pope Francis as telling the victims and the others in the room in the private meeting, “Words cannot fully express my sorrow for the abuse you suffered.”

And also from the transcript, “I am deeply sorry for the times when you or your family spoke out, to report the abuse, but you were not heard or believed. Please know that the Holy Father hears you and believes you.”

Pope Francis said, according to the transcript, “I pledge to you that we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead. Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children.

To the bishops, Pope Francis said in an unscripted text, “God weeps for the sexual abuse of children. These cannot be maintained in secret, and I commit to a careful oversight to ensure that youth are protected and that all responsible will be held accountable.”

These comments were widely interpreted by news commentators to mean that Pope Francis would hold to account bishops and clergy who covered up abuse.

The rubber has now met the road.

To get to the truth, Pope Francis, who has no problem speaking with anybody, needs to speak to the Chilean victims beginning with Juan Carlos Cruz, who has testified that Bishop Barros was present when he and other victims were abused by Fr. Fernando Karadima.

The Pope’s commission on sexual abuse needs to hear Cruz’ testimony.

Exchanges of emails between two cardinals, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, a member of Pope Francis’ kitchen Cabinet, and Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati which were published by a Chilean newspaper and have been confirmed as authentic, are discussions of how to keep Cruz from speaking.

The chair of the commission, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, bears particular responsibility to see that Cruz speaks before the commission but other commission members bear great responsibility also.

The commission is running the risk of becoming a paper tiger blowing in the wind allowing cardinals to veto who speaks before it and who doesn’t.

And the wind has been especially strong in favor of protecting bishops who covered-up.

It is evident that the appointment and continuation in office of Bishop Barros is hurtful, to say the least, to sexual abuse victims.

Since the words of Pope Francis seem to mean that the Church isn’t interested in hurting victims, isn’t there any other priest in the Diocese of Osorno capable of being the bishop?

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

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