Pope Francis was once thought to be the savior of the Vatican — the man with the potential to change course on harmful policies of the Catholic Church’s past. If you look beyond the public relations work, though, he has provided nothing but more of the same.
The most recent (and most damning) evidence of this are the pope’s comments defending Juan Barros, a priest who was made bishop in 2015. Two weeks before Barros was installed as bishop, a victim of another priest sent a letter to Francis testifying in detail to the priest’s atrocities, saying Barros not only covered up sex abuse against young boys but actually witnessed it as it was happening.
Francis ignored the letter, which included several important allegations and details that should be checked against other accounts, and claimed he had seen no evidence against Barros. He even had the nerve to say no one had come forward, which is clearly false.
Among the Pope’s remarks that caused such offence were: “The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will speak. There is not a single piece of proof against him. Everything is slander. Is this clear?”
He also said: “No one has come forward, they haven’t provided any evidence for a judgment. This is all a bit vague, it’s something that can’t be accepted.”
The Pope later apologised for hurting victims’ feelings “without meaning to” but continued to insist there was “no evidence” against the bishop.
“In Barros’s case, it was studied,” he said. “It was restudied. And there is no evidence… I don’t have evidence to convict.“
The victim, Juan Carlos Cruz, wrote about abuses by cleric Fernando Karadima, who escaped punishment because too much time had passed by the time prosecutors became involved. The Catholic Church “convicted” him and sentenced him to a lifetime of “penance and prayer”… which is their way of saying he got away with it scot-free.
Cruz wrote to the pope in a letter that definitely reached the hands of his top aide on sexual abuse. That aide confirmed it reached the pope himself, despite his claims to never have seen any evidence or testimonies. The letter is quite graphic.
“When we were in a room with Karadima and Juan Barros, if he [Barros] wasn’t kissing Karadima, he watched as one of us, one of the younger ones, was touched by Karadima and forced to give him kisses,” he writes.
“Karadima would say to me: ‘Put your mouth next to mine and stick out your tongue.’ He’d stick out his and kiss us with his tongue. Juan Barros witnessed all of this on countless occasions, not just in my case but in the case of others as well.”
Addressing himself to Pope Francis, Mr Cruz says: “Holy Father, Juan Barros says he saw nothing and yet, there are dozens of us who can testify to the fact that not only was he present when Karadima abused us, but that he, too, kissed Karadima and they touched each other.”
He concludes the letter with this appeal: “Please Holy Father, don’t be like the others. There are so many of us who despite everything think that you can do something. I treasure my faith, it’s what sustains me, but it is slipping away from me.”
The desperate plea by a victim, a Christian who “treasures” his faith, was summarily dismissed by Pope P.R. Even if he does eventually acknowledge these testimonies, though, what can we expect to happen? Will he, like Karadima, be sentenced to “penance and prayer”? That’s not justice, and it’s not fair to these people who have had to suffer for decades because of Barros’ silence along with the complicity of the Catholic hierarchy.
(Image via Shutterstock)