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Report: Pope Lied About Sexual Abuse

This Associated Press report is a bombshell: [1]

Pope Francis received a victim’s letter in 2015 that graphically detailed sexual abuse at the hands of a priest and a cover-up by Chilean church authorities, contradicting the pope’s recent insistence that no victims had come forward, the letter’s author and members of Francis’ own sex- abuse commission have told The Associated Press.

The fact that Francis received the eight-page letter, obtained by the AP, challenges his insistence that he has “zero tolerance” for sex abuse and cover-ups. It also calls into question his stated empathy with abuse survivors, compounding the most serious crisis of his five-year papacy.

The scandal exploded last month when Francis’ trip to South America was marred by protests over his vigorous defense of Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused by victims of covering up the abuse by the Rev. Fernando Karadima. During the trip, Francis callously dismissed accusations against Barros as “slander,” seemingly unaware that victims had placed him at the scene of Karadima’s crimes.

On the plane home, confronted by reporters, the pope said: “You, in all good will, tell me that there are victims, but I haven’t seen any, because they haven’t come forward.”

But members of the pope’s Commission for the Protection of Minors say that in April 2015, they sent a delegation to Rome specifically to hand-deliver a letter to the pope about Barros. The letter from Juan Carlos Cruz detailed the abuse, kissing and fondling he says he suffered at Karadima’s hands, which he said Barros and others witnessed and ignored.


Four members of the commission met with Francis’ top abuse adviser, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, explained their objections to Francis’ recent appointment of Barros as a bishop in southern Chile, and gave him the letter to deliver to Francis.

“When we gave him (O’Malley) the letter for the pope, he assured us he would give it to the pope and speak of the concerns,” then-commission member Marie Collins told the AP. “And at a later date, he assured us that that had been done.”

Cruz, who now lives and works in Philadelphia, heard the same later that year.

“Cardinal O’Malley called me after the pope’s visit here in Philadelphia and he told me, among other things, that he had given the letter to the pope — in his hands,” he said in an interview at his home Sunday.

Neither the Vatican nor O’Malley responded to multiple requests for comment.

The story contains a photograph of one of the group giving the letter to Cardinal O’Malley. O’Malley, sent into Boston to clean up the mess left by Cardinal Law, has generally been an honest broker in the scandal. The AP story plausibly suggests that this background is the reason why O’Malley rebuked the pope after his denial.


In the letter to the pope, Cruz begs for Francis to listen to him and make good on his pledge of “zero tolerance.”

“Holy Father, it’s bad enough that we suffered such tremendous pain and anguish from the sexual and psychological abuse, but the terrible mistreatment we received from our pastors is almost worse,” he wrote.

Cruz goes on to detail in explicit terms the homo-eroticized nature of the circle of priests and young boys around Karadima, the charismatic preacher whose El Bosque community in the well-to-do Santiago neighborhood of Providencia produced dozens of priestly vocations and five bishops, including Barros.

He described how Karadima would kiss Barros and fondle his genitals, and do the same with younger priests and teens, and how young priests and seminarians would fight to sit next to Karadima at the table to receive his affections.

“More difficult and tough was when we were in Karadima’s room and Juan Barros — if he wasn’t kissing Karadima — would watch when Karadima would touch us — the minors — and make us kiss him, saying: ‘Put your mouth near mine and stick out your tongue.’ He would stick his out and kiss us with his tongue,” Cruz told the pope. “Juan Barros was a witness to all this innumerable times, not just with me but with others as well.”

“Juan Barros covered up everything that I have told you,” he added.

An important explanatory paragraph:

For the Osorno faithful who have opposed Barros as their bishop, the issue isn’t so much a legal matter requiring proof or evidence, as Barros was a young priest at the time and not in a position of authority over Karadima. It’s more that if Barros didn’t “see” what was happening around him and doesn’t find it problematic for a priest to kiss and fondle young boys, he shouldn’t be in charge of a diocese where he is responsible for detecting inappropriate sexual behavior, reporting it to police and protecting children from pedophiles like his mentor.

Read the whole thing. [1]

This is staggering. If true — and unless Cardinal O’Malley is lying, which I find impossible to believe, it is true — then Francis’s pledges to stand by victims are fraudulent. Did Francis not see how much John Paul II’s defense of the sex criminal Maciel against similar charges hurt the Church? Future historians will one day marvel at the auto-destruction of the Catholic Church’s moral authority at the hands of popes and bishops who covered up for these sex criminals in the clergy.

UPDATE: I really can’t fathom this. It was never right to behave this way, but it is perhaps comprehensible in 2002. But to do it 15 years after Boston? That suggests depraved indifference.

32 Comments (Open | Close)

32 Comments To "Report: Pope Lied About Sexual Abuse"

#1 Comment By Liam On February 5, 2018 @ 12:57 pm

Fwiw, Cdl Sean had over a week ago requested that yesterday’s Masses in the archdiocese of Boston be offered in prayer and penance for the harm done by sexual abuse in the Church.

#2 Comment By ginger On February 5, 2018 @ 12:58 pm

Well, this would explain why the two actual victims of abuse who once sat on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors either quit (Marie Collins) or were put on leave (Peter Saunders).

Let light be cast in all the dark corners. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of dark corners and probably always will be.

#3 Comment By Thomas On February 5, 2018 @ 12:59 pm

It is horrible and truly disgusting if true. I almost wonder if, and this is a huge if and shows my large amount of ignorance, that it is overlooked because of kissing and only fondling and not rape and it is not looked upon as harshly in some Latin American countries compared to the US. Either way if this is true then this is a horrible thing and as a father of a young son I had to turn away while reading it.

#4 Comment By Uncle Billy On February 5, 2018 @ 1:43 pm

Ugh. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church does not admit to this, but there has existed a “lavender mafia” among the clergy. Homosexuals are not a majority of the clergy, but they are a big enough minority to exert influence all the way to Rome. Most of the victims of the recent clerical sexual abuse of minors scandal have been boys. The large number of homosexuals among the clergy has been the elephant in the room.

Years ago it was conservatives who refused to acknowledge this, but now it is liberals. The mandatory celibacy did not cause this problem, but it did shrink the pool of young men who might consider the priesthood. Most straight young men are not going to be celibate. More than a few gay men went into the priesthood to “hide” but were unable to remain celibate.

I could see all the gays in the priesthood 30 years ago and wondered where we were going. Now I know.

#5 Comment By Anne On February 5, 2018 @ 1:48 pm

Somehow the news I noted in passing last week on another thread still goes unnoticed — namely that Pope Francis has sent a special prosecutor to Chile to investigate Bishop Barros and the whole Karadima affair. Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta isn’t just any Vatican representative, but the very prosecutor who finally took on the case against Fr. Marsial Maciel.

So far, the reaction from abuse victim groups in Chile has been guarded but positive. Marie Collins, the abuse survivor who had resigned from her place on the Pope’s Commission for the Protection of Minors, in frustration, she said, with the Roman curia, said she wished Francis had done this before making the statements he made to the media on that plane trip before his Chilean visit, but expressed hope that this action will speak louder than words, since “Archbishop Scicluna has a positive record on abuse and hopefully will be enabled to do a thorough investigation.” Being on the ground in Chile to investigate, rather than relying on documents and letters that have ways of not getting seen, should make a difference.

#6 Comment By Beth On February 5, 2018 @ 1:55 pm

Sadly this doesn’t surprise me one bit. I was so sickened by the systemic abuse tolerated by the Catholic hierarchy in the early 2000s that I eventually departed Catholicism for another Christian church.

#7 Comment By Bernie On February 5, 2018 @ 1:57 pm

First, as disgusting as this report is, it has nothing to do with the validity of apostolic succession. I start with this point because some frequent commenters will jump on this report as proof against apostolic succession. Sigh.

If this report is true and if Pope Francis actually read the letter Cardinal O’Malley handed to him (and O’Malley is really one of the good guys in the Church), this may seriously damage the moral leadership of this Pope (not his papal authority in matters of faith and morals). And that may prove, in the end, to be in the best interest of the Catholic Church, although it may come at the highest cost of shameful behavior and judgment on the Pope’s part. There have been 266 valid Popes – some saints and some as shameful as human beings come. Faithful Catholics shouldn’t want to enable Popes who are poor shepherds.

“The AP story plausibly suggests that this background is the reason why O’Malley rebuked the pope after his denial.”

Yes, Cardinal O’Malley publicly rebuked the Pope. This is what the loyal opposition does; it’s also known as fraternal correction. That’s why when loyal Catholics who love God and the Church criticize the Pope for some of his actions, they are not being “disloyal or acting like Protestants”. It’s because they don’t want God’s teaching or the Church harmed by the Pope’s behavior. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Precisely right. Cardinal O’Malley spoke up, as do many faithful Catholics when they judge the Church is being harmed by a Pope’s bad judgment or behavior. It’s NOT a sign of lack of respect for the office of the papacy or its legitimate authority, but, if properly motivated, it shows a deep concern for the welfare of the Church, Christ’s Body on earth.

[NFR: “Moral authority” is not the same thing as “apostolic authority.” You are correct that if true, this does not invalidate apostolic authority. But it is all too possible for a pope or bishop to be validly ordained, and thus to possess apostolic authority, while also having lost moral authority. Nobody doubted that Bernard Law was the validly ordained Catholic archbishop of Boston. Many doubted that he had the moral authority to lead after the early 2002 revelations. — RD]

#8 Comment By ludo On February 5, 2018 @ 2:34 pm

Something secretive, hypocritical, unethical, and possibly even criminal, was instigated and maintained by Karadima and much younger group of followers/acquaintances. However, it’s quite possible that the situation was actually much more turbid, confused, and complicated than it has been made to seem by the main group of accusers of Karadima and (for passive complicity) Barros.

For example, Jaime Ravinet, an ex-defense minister in the 2010 Sebastián Piñera government, had quite recently this to say about the allegations against Barros: “I’ve known him [Barros] since he was military bishop (chaplain) and also because I’m a parishioner at El Bosque. An investigation must be begun against him, with all that that implies. Except for the testimonies of those involved there is no hard evidence, and a proper enquiry should be undertaken, in my opinion anyone who conceals abuses for a long time and then suddenly reports them, there is something odd about that.”

In reference to his own experience at high school Colegio San Ignacio, Ravinet said: “We believed that some of the priests’ behavior was not normal or they were limp-wristed [literally ‘they tilted to the side’]. Before one didn’t confess through small side windows, one did it facing the priests, and that’s where they took advantage. Persons close to me suffered that and they defended themselves even by spitting.”


#9 Comment By Mac61 On February 5, 2018 @ 2:52 pm

After two years of reading and studying and more than a year in RCIA, I was confirmed in the Catholic Church in October 2001. The nun in charge of RCIA suggested I might want to wait until April 2002, but said she would support my being confirmed in October. By February 2002, I was seeing red because of the criminal behavior of priests and the negligence and obstruction of bishops all the way up to the pope. I am absolutely numb after the Church has failed to understand how damaging and infuriating this scandal is to families, to average people, for 15 years. I guess what we are talking about is clericalism, but on another level it absolutely defies logic, common sense, common decency and common morality. I assume Barros is innocent, but if the Pope were not so arrogant/reckless, he would have avoided the suggestion of scandal by taking Barros’ own advice and not appointing him to begin with. The Orthodox are absolutely right: the Bishop of Rome is the first among equals, a tie-breaker, not a monarch. Well–more fodder for the non-stop attack on the moral credibility of the Church. Had I waited until April 2002 to be confirmed, I am not sure what I would have done. But the last thing I would have expected is a lumbering Church hierarchy still struggling to put out the fires of scandal 15 years later. As Casey Stengel observed, Does anyone here know how to play this game?

#10 Comment By Anne On February 5, 2018 @ 2:56 pm

Correction: Marcial Maciel.

#11 Comment By Eliana On February 5, 2018 @ 3:35 pm

Well, this item seems to fit with Rod’s post on de-conversion stories.

A main reason I de-converted from the Catholic Church was that it seemed to me that the hierarchy was set up and run in such a way as to invite and harbor among its members recidivism of serious error.

So this is quite sad, if true.

But not that surprising.

#12 Comment By Bernie On February 5, 2018 @ 3:38 pm

Rod, I absolutely agree with your response to my comment. Sadly, we have some commenters here who equate the moral authority of a Pope’s leadership with apostolic succession and its distinct authority. When a priest, bishop or pope loses moral authority, it’s like a parent or leader of an institution or government losing moral authority. Those over whom they exercise authority may well ignore or leave them as the result.

#13 Comment By Jay On February 5, 2018 @ 3:40 pm

It’s funny how this site often brings up articles discussing how people identify themselves as atheist more and more yet are always so shocked about the breakdown in culture, etc etc etc.

Putting so called progressiveness aside, has it ever dawned on anyone that these child sex scandals really, really don’t make it better?

The Catholic Church is turning away its flock in droves, some end up in other churches but many become the statistics often cited here.

Don’t believe me? Visit your local church next Sunday and see how many parishioners, who finance the church, will still be around in 10 years.

#14 Comment By Lee Podles On February 5, 2018 @ 4:49 pm

Francis does not like clarity of any kind. His statements about divorce, homosexuality, sexual abuse are not meant to be taken literally, but expressions of his mood at the moment, which can change on an hourly basis, so it is impossible to pin him down. Is this Jesuitical Machiavellianism, designed to create an atmosphere of confusion in the church in which anything goes, or is an expression of a mind without discipline? I suspect a mixture of both. Some people do not like to think clearly because it then they have to take painful steps, like acting against sexual abusers or conforming corruption. Benedict was a clear and logical thinker who was willing to act on his conclusions. Francis avoids clear thought because he knows what he conclusions would be and he doesn’t want to act on them. So he creates a smokescreen of confusing statements, because who is going to call the pope a liar, when he is caving in to the sexual revolution – or at least letting other bishops and priests cave in.

There have been good popes, bad popes, incompetent popes, and regrettable pope. I think Francis will be placed in the last category.

#15 Comment By Bernie On February 5, 2018 @ 5:12 pm

“…Pope Francis has sent a special prosecutor to Chile to investigate Bishop Barros and the whole Karadima affair.”

Wow, Anne. One investigator was sent to Chile a few days ago by Pope Francis after a disastrous papal visit there among protests and enormous indignation over the appointment of Bishop Barros several YEARS ago. One investigator a few days ago – way too little, way too late. If it weren’t so tragic a situation, it’d be laughable. What a totally shameful situation you’re defending.

#16 Comment By charles cosimano On February 5, 2018 @ 5:23 pm

A Pope lied. Now, in more serious news, a dog bit a mailman today…

#17 Comment By Stan On February 5, 2018 @ 6:34 pm

The Pope strikes as someone who is very careless about off-the-cuff statements he makes to the media. If he has said something false to them, I find that far more likely to be the explanation than that he deliberately lied.

#18 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On February 5, 2018 @ 7:10 pm

Lee Podles said: “Francis does not like clarity of any kind.”

Typical of most politicians. They’re for it before they’re against it, and were always for it after it got popular.

#19 Comment By charles cosimano On February 5, 2018 @ 7:48 pm

Something no one seems to be considering. What if the Pope is not his own man in this. What if there is a puppetmaster fulling his strings. For, in the words of Cardinal Vittorio Vincenzo Baccala, “Il Papa. Il Papa, he’sa likea da kneecaps.”

Nothing like a little conspiracy theory to liven up a winter’s evening.

#20 Comment By James C. On February 5, 2018 @ 8:10 pm

A+ to you, Lee Podles. Right on the money.

You know, in past ages it was perfectly normal for faithful Catholics to despise a disastrous pontificate and pray that the flock be released from it. The silver lining of this fraudulent pontiff is that many sincere Catholics will be disabused of the 20th-century tendency to automatically hero-worship the pope as a man because of his office.

#21 Comment By Ain’t Ben On February 5, 2018 @ 9:00 pm

Shame, I had higher hopes for this Pope. Never expected for a second, though, that he’d do squat about the pedophile priests in the Church.

I’ve come to realize over the years that there’s something of an “Iron Law” about organizations. If they give any sort of power or benefit to the people who run them they will eventually become oligarchies devoted, so far as is possible, to protecting and enhancing the power of the organization and the people running it. Doesn’t matter if it’s a company, a government, a union or a church. In fact, many of the structural flaws and theological underpinnings of churches make them the especially susceptible to the worst sorts of corruption.

I figured I couldn’t be the first to think these thoughts, so I went looking and, sure enough… A German sociologist names Robert Michels coined the “Iron Law of Oligarchy” in the 1910s: “He who says organization says oligarchy.” His belief in this formulation led him to become an Italian Fascist, given that democracy had to be doomed (which, of course, it eventually is). The American sci-fi writer Jerry Pournelle reformulated or expanded upon it with his “Iron Law of Bureaucracy,” which more or less states that any organization’s bureaucracy will have some people devoted to the purpose of the organization and some people devoted to benefitting from it, and the latter will always end up in charge eventually.

Anyway, nobody should be shocked. Francis may be a good guy at heart, but he can’t overcome what the Catholic Church is or who he’s become. At the end of the day, he’s more devoted to protecting the Church bureaucracy – and its wealth and power – than anything else. He would not have been installed if he were anything else.

#22 Comment By Carl Kuss, L.C. On February 5, 2018 @ 9:03 pm

It is staggering. If the Pope told us on the plane that was no (substantial) evidence against Barros (correcting the expression “proof”) and had received and read and was conscious of this letter, the consequences are enormous. We are into a high drama.

I am a Legionary of Christ, and so I know what it is to defend a person with tooth and claw, and then to discover that there is a problem, Houston.

But I have always felt that the real story (in the case of the Legion) is not the abuse in itself (Maciel may well have been himself abused as a child, and then brought up in culture that mixes piety with sadistic cruelty; so the problem can’t be reduced to him), but in the institutional coverup, the excuse-making, the moneyed interests that, the clericalisms that are the hidden movers of the abuse.

That is why I stand behind the attempts made by Pope Francis to draw attention to the evil of clericalism.

That is why I am against the Manichean frenzy, the scapegoating fanaticism that will only serve to chop heads without attacking the problem at its real and only root.

I have also been and still am a defender of Pope Francis in the controversy around Amoris Laetitia. I see no reason to walk back what I have said in that regard. Does he not insist in his doctrine that there must be discernment of cases? Now we should carefully discern what may be true in the grave accusation against him.

There is an interesting and significant link between the case of Father Maciel and the case of Barros/Karadima and his name is Charles Scicluna. May God guide him.

I will say today that if it is shown to be the case that Pope Francis has been covering up coverups, that he should resign and that he owes the Church an apology, something that does not come automatically with a resignation, and everything must be done to close and heal the gaping wound of scandal.

I am not a cynic and I do not believe in the spiritual bloodlust that I have seen and commented upon in the writings of Mr. Dreher.

Rather than giving the Church of Christ another kick, we should pray for the Church, and for the Pope and for Archbishop Scicluna, for their souls and for their spiritual courage and integrity.

Are we interested in the good of souls, or just in that spiritual bloodlust. That joy of THE “I told you so”?

Remember that the Pope assigned Scicluna to this task. The Pope has told us that rigidity is not a good sign in a Christian. Let us pray that the Pope will have the strength to recognize his errors if and when that is necessary.

I still like Pope Francis.

#23 Comment By John On February 5, 2018 @ 10:14 pm

One thing that the scandals have shown is that the Catholic hierarchy is susceptible to the problems as other hierarchies and that the leadership within its ranks will act like the leadership in any other organizations’s ranks. The powers that be will act like any bureaucrat, CEO, business lawyer, police commissioner or bureaucrat and sweep under the rug anything that could remotely embarrass them. Friends will look the other way. After all, a move needs to be filmed, stock markets have to go through the roof, the trains have to run on time, and the collection basket left at the pews has to be filled.

Crimes go unpunished. Justice is thwarted, and the culprits get to victimize someone else again. In fact maybe the victim gets blamed. The woman was wearing something provocative. ? The kids wanted it. The person of interest looked like he was going to pull out s gun. Etc.

It’s wrong. Cardinal Francis is proving to be no better at this than his immediate predecessors.

#24 Comment By Nate J On February 5, 2018 @ 11:16 pm

Can y’all get that Benedict fellow back now?


A Confessional Lutheran

#25 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On February 6, 2018 @ 2:47 am

Uncle Billy

You are spot on. And I suspect this is not disconnected from the homoheresy that is tainting many in the hierarchy (see the post about cd. Marx and the blessing of gay couples)

#26 Comment By Dan Green On February 6, 2018 @ 8:21 am

The pedophile issue with the Catholic Church, reminds me of the Little Dutch Boy, running around sticking his finger in holes in a dyke, to stop the water. The Hierarchy of the CAtholic Church has no grip on their problems.

#27 Comment By John Achterhof On February 6, 2018 @ 9:42 am

At the risk of stating the obvious, I don’t think the Pope is any longer looked to as a figure of high moral authority in the West. His popularity, as seen in his tour of the US, is perhaps due not so much to veneration of authority as of curiosity and nostalgia over a vestigial organ of a warmly remembered bygone era. In this day and age where science has supplanted religion as the medium through which we make sense of the world one cannot expect to find the most conscientious among us behind a pulpit, or within the church. That is the crisis of authority-berift “liquid modernity” as you call it – which I think explains the great appeal of Jordan Peterson.

#28 Comment By JCM On February 6, 2018 @ 10:23 am

Trying to sort this out in my head, it seems that there are three unappetizing choices on the menu:

A. Francis knew about or willfully ignored the Barros-Karadima scandal, knowing it to be probably true, and appointed Barros anyway. This would make the Pope complicit in the biggest church scandal since the Reformation.

B. Francis is a naif who stubbornly insists on maintaining a position contrary to the facts because he is so sure of himself and confident of Barros’ integrity. This would make Francis unfit to serve in any executive position involving personnel decisions.

C. There is a vengeful plot to discredit Francis, Barros and the Church by unknown political groups in Chile–either from the Left or Right–and Francis is bravely, perhaps foolishly, taking a principled stand.

D. Is there a D? Because A-C don’t seem to make any sense to me.

#29 Comment By The Dean On February 6, 2018 @ 4:40 pm

Does anyone know if this problem existed prior to Vatican Two? Did they lower the expected quality of seminarians? Did they vet homosexuals back then?

#30 Comment By Sheil On February 6, 2018 @ 10:49 pm

Like others have said the complicity of the Church hierarchy in allowing predatory clerics to abuse without inhibition effectively destroyed my faith. Unlike others I haven’t found a home in another Christian denomination. I don’t think any other organized religion could ever replace the Catholic Church in my heart.

On a related note, in December of last year a former priest was convicted of murdering a 25 year old woman in south Texas in 1960. It was a decades-long cold case but I’d bet money that the fact that the defendant was a Catholic priest at the time of the young woman’s murder was considered by the jury as a trait which invited suspicion rather than placed him above it. It seems that the hierarchy has no idea how deeply the Church’s reputation has been damaged and how many generations it will take to repair.

#31 Comment By Hound of Ulster On February 6, 2018 @ 11:53 pm

Church councils, and some Sayings of the Fathers mention it, as far back as the fourth century AD. So yeah, not new, not just a ‘gay’ problem. Stories of caddish priest knocking up the local girls were a dime a dozen during the Middle Ages…don’t get me started on the Pornocracy…

#32 Comment By Michael Dooley On February 7, 2018 @ 10:10 am

As a Lutheran, I am often urged to put aside my “doctrinal hang-ups” (“we’ll sort those out later!”) and enter the Catholic Church because it is “rightly ordered”.
We Lutherans have our own problems with sexual scandals (usually married Pastors committing adultery with married women in their congregations); but on that score it looks like we’d just be changing one set of sexual scandals for another.
However that may be, in significant sense, the claim that the Catholic Church is “rightly ordered” seems to be seriously in doubt. How can any “holy church” be said to be faithful to Christ when it shields the worst among its priests at the expense of the abused?