After Defending Controversial Bishop, Pope To Send Sex Abuse Investigator To Chile

National Public Radio

January 30, 2018

By Sylvia Poggioli

When Pope Francis visited Chile earlier this month, he lashed out at victims of sexual abuse and accused them of “calumny” regarding a bishop who is suspected of covering up abuse they endured by a pedophile priest.

The pope said there was “not a shred of evidence” against Chilean Bishop Juan Barros. “The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros,” he said, “I’ll speak.”

Now the pope is sending a top envoy on a mission to Chile to look into survivors’ claims.

A Vatican statement said Maltese Bishop Charles Scicluna, the Church’s most respected sex crimes expert, will “listen to those who have expressed the desire to provide elements” about the case of Barros. It said new information had emerged.

The pope’s remarks in Chile had highlighted some Vatican-watchers’ concerns about his commitment to combating sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy — an issue that has undermined the Catholic Church’s moral authority in much of the world.

There were high expectations in 2014 when the pope created the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, headed by Cardinal Sean O’Malley.

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