The Associated Press
The three whistleblowers in Chile’s sex abuse scandal urged Pope Francis on Wednesday to transform his apology for having discredited them into concrete action to end what they called the “epidemic” of sex abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church.
Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo spoke to reporters Wednesday after spending five days with the pope at his Vatican hotel. Their press conference was broadcast live in Chile, a sign of the unprecedented nature of their hours of meetings with the pope.
Cruz said that during his private encounter with Francis, the pope acknowledged: “I was part of the problem. I caused this, and I apologize to you.”
“I believe that he was sincere,” Cruz said.
Cruz said he believed that Francis was simply misinformed about the case of Bishop Juan Barros, whom the three men have long accused of having witnessed and ignored their abuse.
Barros was a protege of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, a charismatic preacher and darling of Chile’s conservative Catholic society who was removed from ministry and sentenced by the Vatican in 2011 to live in penance and prayer for having sexually abused minors.
Barros and other Karadima-trained bishops never acknowledged having witnessed his abuse, even though his victims have long placed them at the scene.
Francis had strongly defended Barros during his January trip to Chile, calling the accusations against him “calumny.” He claimed to have never heard from victims about Barros, even though he had received in 2015 a letter from Cruz detailing Barros’ wrongdoing.
Cruz had written to Francis after the pope overruled opposition from some Chilean bishops and appointed him bishop of Osorno. Just this week, a former Chilean minister revealed that the Chilean government too had wanted Barros out as the preacher to the Chilean armed forces, and was “surprised” when Francis named him instead to head up Osorno.
Cruz said he didn’t press the pope on what he knew or when. But he said he warned him about the “toxicity” of the churchmen who had “duped him,” naming the current and former archbishops of Santiago, the Vatican’s ambassador to Chile, and members of the Chilean bishops’ conference.
Hamilton said they will probably never know the full truth about what the pope knew, but that the important thing is that the pope now is “very well-informed.” He said he was prepared to wait to see what concrete action he will take.
“Everybody deserves, especially in this case, a second chance,” Hamilton said of the pope.
The three men didn’t say what exactly they want Francis to do. But previously, they have called for Barros and other Karadima-trained bishops to resign, as well as a handful of other Chilean bishops with poor records on dealing with abuse cases.
Francis has summoned the entire Chilean bishops conference to Rome later this month for a dressing down and to plot reforms in the church.
In a statement, the men said they saw the “friendly face” of the church this week, after having been treated for 10 years as “enemies” of the Chilean hierarchy.
But they warned that unless Francis takes concrete action, their talks will be in vain. They said abuse and cover-up are not just sins “but crimes and corruption that do not end in Chile but are an epidemic.”
‘I was part of the problem,’ pope quoted telling Chile abuse victims
02 May 2018
ROME (Reuters) – Pope Francis told Chilean victims of clerical sexual abuse “I was part of the problem” and apologized for dismissing accusations of a cover-up by Catholic bishops, one of the victims said on Wednesday.
At an emotional news conference after four days of private meetings with the pope, three men who were victims of Chile’s most notorious paedophile urged Francis to take action against several Chilean bishops.
“For almost 10 years we have been treated as enemies because we fight against sexual abuse and cover-up in the Church,” Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo, said in a joint statement read out to reporters.
The three men, who were guests of the pope at his residence, said that during their long conversations, Francis had been attentive, receptive and very empathetic.
“I have never, never seen someone be so contrite … I felt that he was hurting, which for me was very solemn. It’s not often that the pope says sorry to you and apologizes to you for something,” Cruz said in response to a question.
“He (the pope) said “I was part of the problem, I caused this and I apologize to you,’” Cruz said. “I believe that he was sincere.”
In a dramatic U-turn last month, Pope Francis said in a letter to Chilean bishops that he had made “grave mistakes” in the handling of the sexual abuse crisis there, saying he felt shame for what had happened.
The letter followed a Vatican investigation into Bishop Juan Barros, who was appointed by the pope in 2015 despite allegations that he had covered up sexual abuse of minors by his mentor, Father Fernando Karadima.
Barros has said he was unaware of any wrongdoing.
In his letter to Chilean bishops last month, Francis said there had been a “lack of truthful and balanced information” about the situation in Chile before he sent the Vatican’s most experienced investigator of sexual abuse, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, to investigate.
“Scicluna really opened his (the pope’s) eyes,” Cruz said.
Scicluna produced a 2,300-page report, which prompted the pope to summon the bishops to Rome for a meeting this month.
“We are waiting for action. We are not here to do public relations,” said Murillo when asked what he wanted Francis to do.
Hamilton said the pope had told him “there is no turning back now”.
All three agreed the pope should follow through by taking action against Barros and other bishops they say covered up the abuse by Karadima and discredited their claims.
“I went to (Church officials in Chile) for help when I was dying inside and they killed a second time,” Hamilton said of the bishops who ignored him even though there was overwhelming evidence against Karadima.
Hamilton called the bishops who he said had covered up the abuse “criminals” who deserved to be jailed.
Karadima was found guilty in a Vatican investigation in 2011 of abusing boys in Santiago in the 1970s and 1980s. But he never faced civilian justice because of the statute of limitations.
Now 87 and living in a nursing home in Chile, Karadima has always denied the allegations and Barros said he was unaware of any wrongdoing.
The joint statement said they told the pope he had to do something about the “pathological and unlimited exercise of power” in the Church that can foster abuse.
Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Gareth Jones