Juan Carlos Cruz: the survivor who changed the pope’s mind on sex abuse

America Magazine

November 30, 2018

By Ashley McKinless

“The church has to change that paradigm, that way of thinking that survivors are enemies of the church and want to destroy the church,” said Juan Carlos Cruz. “It’s quite the opposite. There’s a lot of people that have been destroyed by the church and others that have been wronged in the worst way by the church and yet they still want to move forward and call themselves Catholics.”

Juan Carlos has been advocating for survivors for years, since he publicly disclosed that as a child he was abused by the notorious predator Fernando Karadima, a Chilean Catholic priest. For a long time, the Catholic Church in Chile disregarded the abuse allegations against the powerful cleric. One cardinal even told Juan Carlos it was hard to believe he was a victim because he is gay and “might have liked it.” When Pope Francis visited Chile earlier this year, he initially dismissed as “slander” allegations from Juan Carlos and other victims that a bishop had covered up Karadima’s abuse. Yet Juan Carlos persisted and, by sharing his story, has changed the church in Chile and given hope to many other survivors.

The church has to change that paradigm that that way of thinking that survivors are enemies of the church and want to destroy the church.

We ask Juan Carlos: What it’s like to feel betrayed by the pope—and to have the pope ask for your forgiveness? What concrete steps do Pope Francis and the church need to take to protect and bring healing to survivors of sexual abuse?

In Signs of the Times, the International Union of Superiors General is urging sisters who have been abused to report the crimes to police and their superiors, more details emerge about February’s global summit on sex abuse at the Vatican and Catholics respond to the migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. Plus, we discuss the U.S. bishops’ new pastoral letter on racism. It’s been 40 years since the bishops have spoken together on racial justice. Does this statement go far enough?

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