While being credited as a reformer, Pope Francis has done nothing to ease any of the Roman Catholic Church’s draconian decrees and doctrines. Yet the pope has excelled in creating a public relations image of a “kinder, gentler” church hierarchy.
But the pope’s true colors were revealed when he publicly accused victims of Chile’s most infamous priestly pedophile scandal of “slander.” Ironically, the pope’s purpose in visiting Chile was supposedly to help “heal” those survivors of priest abuse.
Chile’s most notorious priestly scandal has involved Fernando Karadima, who abused dozens of children under his care. Karadima’s decades-long crime spree was ignored — which is to say, covered up — by the church until the victims went public with the abuse in 2010.
Karadima, then 80, was merely sanctioned in 2011 by the Vatican, which removed him from all pastoral duties and “sentenced” him to a “life of penance and prayer” for his crimes. Statute of limitations or decisions by fearful prosecutors and judges meant no criminal resolution.
In 2015, Pope Francis renewed Chilean anger over Karadima’s crimes and church complicity by making Juan Barros Madrid — a protégé of the abusive priest — a bishop. Even some of Chile’s church leaders opposed the appointment of Barros as bishop because of accusations from what they called “truthful and reliable” victims who charged Barros with personally knowing of the abuse, but doing nothing.
It recently came to light that Pope Francis acknowledged the church leaders’ complaints in a letter in January 2015, but ignored their call not to promote Barros.
When the pope said that “there is not one single piece of proof” of cover-up, that “It’s all calumny. Is that clear?” he is disregarding the sworn, reliable testimony of the victims, just as the church ignored their claims of abuse. In short, he’s calling those victims liars.
In late January, the pope reiterated his defense of Barros, contending that he had never received any complaints that the prelate knew of abuse by the country’s most notorious pedophile priest.
But on Feb. 5, the Associated Press reported that the pope personally received an eight-page letter in 2015 from one of the victims. The letter detailed abuses the victim said were witnessed by other clerics, including Barros.
“There is what you might call a willful blindness,” Peter Saunders, a former member of the pope’s Commission for the Protection of Minors, told The New York Times. “It’s almost angry unwillingness to accept what’s in front of him, because to acknowledge it is to acknowledge that the church still has to clean up its act. He’s been behaving like a spouse who is told that their spouse is abusing their kids, and can’t believe it.”