KANSAS CITY (MO)
National Catholic Reporter
January 25, 2018
By Thomas Reese
The overwhelming consensus in the media is that Pope Francis has a blind spot when it comes to sexual abuse.
He may be on the side of refugees, migrants, the sick, the poor, the indigenous and other marginalized peoples, but he just doesn’t get it when it comes to victims of abuse.
The evidence for this assertion is the pope’s unwavering support for Juan Barros, whom he appointed bishop of Osorno, Chile, despite accusations from victims that he witnessed and covered up abuse by the Fr. Fernando Karadima, the charismatic priest who in 2011 was found guilty by the Vatican of abusing minors in his upscale Santiago parish.
In a leaked letter to the Chilean bishops, Francis defended his January 2015 appointment of Barros to Osorno. Francis acknowledged that the Vatican was so concerned about the crisis in Chile that it planned to ask Barros, who was the bishop for the military, and two other bishops to resign and take a sabbatical. Despite these concerns, Francis appointed Barros anyway.
Francis’ defense of Barros has been excessive, accusing his detractors of calumny and being leftist agitators. He said he would not believe the accusations until he was given proof.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley publicly corrected the pope’s words:
“It is understandable that Pope Francis’ statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile, were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator. Words that convey the message “if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed” abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile.”
Francis accepted O’Malley’s criticism and apologized for saying the victims need to show “proof” to be believed. But he continued to say that anyone who made accusations against the bishop without providing evidence was guilty of slander.
“I can’t condemn him because I don’t have evidence,” Francis said. “But I’m also convinced that he’s innocent.”
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