Internatinal Business Times
By Lora Moftah @LoraMoftah email@example.com on April 01 2015
Criticisms of the Catholic Church’s effort to promote accountability on clergy sex abuse is poised to intensify as the Vatican stood by its decision to back a controversial Chilean bishop who has been linked to an alleged cover-up of child abuse. The controversy over the appointment of Juan Barros as bishop of Osorno is raising doubts about the pace of reforms promised by Pope Francis, who has made a zero tolerance approach to clergy sex abuse a cornerstone of his papacy. But, according to a prominent U.S. expert on Catholic church matters, the controversy is a snag in the reform process, rather than the indication of a retreat.
A spokesperson for the Holy See announced Tuesday that the Church’s Congregation of Bishops had “carefully examined the prelate’s candidature and did not find objective reasons to preclude the appointment,” in the Vatican’s first official comment on the divisive case. The news comes amid a growing controversy over the bishop’s appointment in Chile, where protests broke out last week during his installation ceremony at the cathedral of the southern city of Osorno. About 3,000 people gathered to protest Barros on Saturday, demanding that he resign his post.
The outrage stems from Barros’ connection to one of Chile’s most notorious pedophile priests, Father Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty of abusing teenage boys over the years in a 2011 Vatican investigation. Critics allege that Barros was not only aware of the abuse but also helped to cover it up in his capacity as Karadima’s protégé. The bishop has denied having any knowledge of the abuse, claiming to have only found out about the allegations through news reports.
Catholic clergy in Chile have voiced their opposition to Barros’ installation, with one of the most vocal critics, Father Alex Vigueras of Santiago’s congregation of the Sacred Heart, saying the appointment was “not attuned with the zero tolerance [policy on pedophilia] that is trying to be installed in the church,” the Guardian reported. …
“As a survivor, I’m very surprised at the appointment in Chile because it seems to go against … what the Holy Father has been saying about not wanting anyone in positions of trust in the church who don’t have an absolutely 100 percent record of child protection,” said Marie Collins, an Irish member of the commission, in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter. “[Barros] is not accused of abuse himself in anyway,” she continued. “He may have been aware of it and did nothing. And that’s enough.”
The reaction from members of the commission and from within Chile shows that the appointment was not a prudent decision by the Vatican, said Rev. James Bretzke, a professor of moral theology at Boston College. “I believe it is sending the wrong message. The fact that [Barros] was named shows a certain tone deafness or lack of sensitivity even today among people involved in these decision-making processes.”
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