Clergy Abuse Advocates Fear Pope Francis Is Making It Harder for Victims to Speak Up

Huffington Post

January 19, 2018

By Carol Kuruvilla

When Joelle Casteix heard Pope Francis accuse sex abuse victims in Chile of slander, the pontiff’s words hit close to home.

Francis told reporters Thursday that he hasn’t seen any convincing evidence against Chile’s Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, whom victims claim protected a pedophile priest.

“The day someone brings me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk,” Francis said during a papal trip to Chile, according to The New York Times. “But there is not one single piece of evidence. It is all slander. Is that clear?”

Casteix, a California native and advocate for abuse victims, knows what it’s like to share a vulnerable story of sexual abuse and to have that story questioned. She is herself a survivor of abuse within the Roman Catholic Church. From 1986 to 1988, she was abused by a choir director at Santa Ana’s Mater Dei High School, in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. By the time the abuse ended, she said, the teacher had left her pregnant and with a sexually transmitted disease. She was only 17.

It wasn’t until 2005 that Casteix and other survivors in her area finally had access to documents the diocese had kept about sexual abusers in its midst. The documents, obtained as part of a $100 million settlement between the diocese and 90 alleged abuse victims, showed how officials had protected priests and teachers who molested children.

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