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In Chile decision, Pope Francis risks reputation as reformer.

CNS photo/Carlos Gutierrez, Reuters

Episcopal installation Masses don’t usually involve teeming protesters, shouting matches, and popping balloons. But Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid’s did. Last Saturday, Barros was installed as bishop of Osorno, Chile, following allegations that he covered up for a sexually abusive priest who had been his mentor. “Barros, get out of the city!” chanted the demonstrators, waving black balloons. The bishop’s supporters tried to drown them out, brandishing white balloons. Some demonstrators attempted to climb the cathedral altar. The service was cut short, and Barros was escorted by police through a side door. Chile’s cardinals, along with most of its bishops, were not in attendance. Familiar with recent history, they knew it was going to be an ugly scene.

Four years ago, the Holy See found Fr. Fernando Karadima guilty of molesting minors, and ordered him to a life of “prayer and penance.” The Karadima case has been called the worst scandal ever to befall the Chilean Catholic Church. Karadima, now eighty-four, was once one of Chile’s most influential clerics. He ministered to the wealthy, and had strong ties to Chile’s elite. He developed a devoted following, molding the church’s future leaders. Four of his protégées, including Barros, later became bishops. Now, several of Karadima’s victims—once his devotees—say that Barros not only knew about the decades-old accusations and did nothing, but that he witnessed the abuse himself. Barros denies all of it, and refuses to resign.

After Barros’s appointment was announced in January, about thirteen hundred Chilean laypeople, including dozens of lawmakers, signed a petition seeking Barros’s removal. More than thirty clerics signed a letter asking the pope to reconsider his decision. Two Chilean bishops reportedly met with Francis to brief him on how difficult this has been for the local church. “The pope told me he had analyzed the situation in detail and found no reason” to remove Barros, the archbishop of Concepción, Fernando Chomalí, told the New York Times. Just before Barros’s installation service, the papal envoy to Chile announced that the bishop had his “confidence and support.”

Some had hoped that pressure brought by members of the pope’s new sexual-abuse commission—several of whom recently expressed grave reservations about the appointment—might persuade Francis to act, or Barros to resign. After all, just last month the pope said that “everything possible must be done to rid the church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused.” He even seemed to chide bishops who had used the excuse of not giving scandal to avoid addressing the issue. But yesterday the Holy See released a terse, curiously worded statement responding to the growing controversy: “Prior to the recent appointment of His Excellency Msgr. Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid as bishop of Osorno, Chile, the Congregation for Bishops carefully examined the prelate’s candidature and did not find objective reasons to preclude the appointment.” If this is Rome’s last word on Barros, then Francis should know that his decision has imperiled not only the Diocese of Osorno, but also his own reputation as a reformer.

The Barros case presents an interesting challenge to the pope’s efforts to bring the church around on the sexual-abuse scandal. The bishop is not accused of committing abuse himself. Nor is he accused of improperly handling cases of abusive priests. Indeed, he never supervised Karadima—he was merely a very close friend. Victims say that Barros covered up for Karadima, that he tried to silence them, and that he was actually present when some of them were abused—claims the bishop disputes.

Allegations of misconduct against Karadima date back to the 1980s. In 1984, parishioners wrote to Cardinal Juan Francisco Fresno to warn him about Karadima’s “improper conduct.” Later, one of the signatories would hear from someone who worked with the cardinal that the letter had been “torn up and thrown away.” Barros was Fresno’s secretary at the time.

About a decade later, José Murillo, then nineteen, confronted Karadima over the priest’s sexual advances, according to the Times. Soon after, the priest and another one of his followers, Fr. Andrés Arteaga—now an auxiliary bishop of Santiago—cornered Murillo and “humiliated” him. Karadima insisted that Murillo make a confession—in the priest’s bedroom. A bishop was there when they arrived, according to Murillo. Karadima gave Murillo some whiskey “to relax me.” The bishop got nervous and left. Then Karadima opened Murillo’s pants and tried to masturbate him. (The Times could not get a comment from Karadima or Arteaga. Along with three other bishops, including Barros, Arteaga was later forced by the Chilean bishops conference to apologize to Karadima’s victims for publicly defending their mentor against their accusations.)

In 2003, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, then archbishop of Santiago, received a letter from Murillo accusing Karadima of misconduct. The cardinal refused to launch an investigation because he did not deem Murillo’s complaint credible. Yet according to norms developed by the Chilean bishops earlier that year, all reports of clerical abuse must be investigated—even if it comes through news accounts. A formal investigation was finally opened in 2004. Two years later, the report called the claims against Karadima “credible.” Cardinal Errázuriz suspended Karadima—and the investigation. He later explained that he wanted to wait for more evidence, and that he thought the alleged abuse occurred outside the statute of limitations. The investigation resumed in 2009, after other complaints surfaced. Errázuriz forwarded a seven-hundred-page dossier on Karadima to the Vatican, where the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith took on the case.

Around that time another man, James Hamilton, wrote about the abuse he said he suffered at the hands of Karadima. He had included the experience in his application for an annulment. (He filed a complaint with the diocese in 2005, but received no response.) Somehow, Hamilton’s pastor in Chile got wind of it, and asked him to remove the passages about Karadima. Hamilton refused. How did his pastor learn the contents of the confidential document? It was leaked to him—and to Bishop Arteaga—by Fr. Francisco Walker, then president of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal, the canon-law court that was considering Hamilton’s petition for annulment. Walker resigned from the court in 2010.

In April 2010, a criminal complaint was brought against Karadima (four men initially made the charges, and four more later said they too had been abused). During the proceedings, Fr. Hans Klest testified that he had seen Karadima commit acts of abuse, as did Fr. Andrés Ferrada. Eventually a judge dismissed the charges because the statute of limitations had expired. (Karadima has denied the allegations.) Karadima was not disciplined by the Holy See until 2011, six years after the canonical investigation began.

Karadima had an interesting legal-defense team. It included Juan Pablo Bulnes Cerda, whose brother was sentenced in 1970 for the killing of General René Schneider. The general was shot during a botched kidnapping attempt intended to prevent the inauguration of Salvador Allende, who was a Marxist. (Schneider refused to allow the military to block his inauguration.) Bulnes’s firm included an attorney who had ties to a paramilitary group that helped to destabilize Chile during the Allende administration. Karadima was also represented by lawyers who defended another man implicated in the Schneider assassination, as well as one who defended the infamous commune Colonia Dignidad. The colony was founded by the former Nazi medic Paul Schäfer, who fled Germany in 1961 after he was accused of molesting children and found a new life for himself in Chile as a cult leader. (A Chilean court later convicted him of abusing more than two dozen children. Twenty-two other Colonia residents were found guilty of abetting child molestation.) Colonia Dignidad was not only a fortified (with lots and lots of weapons) haven for child molesters. Conveniently located on the Argentine border, the colony also apparently served as a rest stop for Nazis on the ratline, including Joseph Mengele. Later it allegedly housed one of Pinochet’s torture chambers.

Which brings us back to Barros. In an interview with Jason Berry, Juan Carlos Cruz, who says Barros saw Karadima molest him, explains that “the triumvirate of power in the 1980s was Karadima, Cardinal Fresno, and Archbishop Angelo Sodano," papal nuncio to Chile from 1977 to 1988. Sodano, often criticized for his support of Pinochet, went on to become Secretary of State under John Paul II, where he influenced a number of episcopal appointments. Berry reports that Sodano had a hand in the decision to make Barros a bishop (he previously served as bishop to the Chilean military). The current papal nuncio to Chile is Archbishop Ivo Scapola—“a Sodano protégé,” writes Berry. Scapola is reportedly the one who lobbied for Barros to be named bishop of Osorno (a small diocese), against the wishes of “the majority of the Bishops of Chile,” according to Fr. Alex Vigueras, provincial of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts in Chile.

Why is Angelo Sodano still influencing episcopal appointments? This is a man who blocked Joseph Ratzinger from investigating the notorious abuser Marcial Maciel (founder of the Legionaries of Christ) as well as Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër, accused of molesting boys in the mid-1990s. In 2004, as John Paul II was ailing, Ratzinger finally moved forward with Maciel’s investigation. But the following year, Sodano sent a statement to the Legionaries of Christ alleging that there was no canonical proceeding against Maciel. In fact evidence was still being collected. The Legionaries happily announced that Maciel had been cleared of all wrongdoing. And in 2010, years after Maciel had been “invited” to a life of prayer and penance, Sodano offered unplanned remarks dismissing criticism of Pope Benedict’s handling of the scandal as “petty gossip”—during Easter Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s. At age eighty-seven, Sodano remains dean of the College of Cardinals.

So what’s really going on here? I wish I knew. Karadima’s victims say Barros is complicit in their abuse. They seem credible. Obviously their testimony helped move the Vatican to discipline Karadima. Barros says he knew nothing about Karadima’s crimes (which the priest denied during his criminal proceeding). “I had no knowledge of the allegations against Rev. Karadima while serving as secretary to Cardinal Juan Francisco Fresno,” Barros asserted in a letter to Osorno Catholics. How credible you find that claim depends on whether you believe letters of complaint about Karadima could have gotten to the cardinal without passing over the desk of his secretary—that is, Barros.

America Media’s Gerard O’Connell cites unnamed sources—actually, they’re not identified in any way other than “informed”—who claim that the Holy See examined all the evidence and concluded that there is “no legal foundation” to the accusations against Barros. I have no idea what that means, and O’Connell doesn’t explain. Then he cites more unidentified sources who downplay the concerns expressed by several members of the pope’s sexual-abuse commission. O’Connell concludes: “Those who believe otherwise surely have the obligation now to produce solid evidence to substantiate their allegations.” Says who? O’Connell doesn’t explain. That’s his summary of the opinion of yet another unidentified source.

No doubt Pope Francis and the Congregation for Bishops have more information than is publicly available. As the congregation explained yesterday, it “carefully examined the prelate’s candidature and did not find objective reasons to preclude the appointment.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Did the Vatican find subjective reasons to bounce Barros? Those aren’t in short supply. Perhaps the pope is uncomfortable giving the appearance of acquiescing to a campaign of guilt by association. Or perhaps this is an instance of actual guilt by association. But if that statement is all the Holy See is willing to disclose about the matter, then we may never know.

Still, even if Pope Francis finds himself unable to resolve the moral question about Barros—and it is, as I’ve tried to show, a brain-rackingly complex case—is it so hard to answer the morale question? Barros’s installation Mass was a circus. Thousands protesting outside the cathedral. Chaos inside. Demonstrators throwing objects at their new shepherd. Most Chilean bishops failing even to show up. Two of them flying to Rome to try to change Francis’s mind. The bishops conference offering a half-hearted word of non-opposition to the appointment. Many priests, deacons, and laypeople calling for Barros’s removal. It’s not as though no one could have seen this coming. The Karadima scandal is the worst Chilean Catholics have ever known. Not giving a territorial diocese to a bishop who once publicly defended him should have been a no-brainer. Instead, the pope has managed to reopen one of the Chilean church’s deepest wounds.

This is not a problem for Chilean Catholics alone. The pope’s Commission for the Protection of Minors is just getting off the ground. Catholics the world over are expecting it to respond to the great unfinished business of the sexual-abuse scandal: accountability for bishops who culpably failed to protect children. Francis rightly won plaudits for daring to put victims on that commission. But at least five members have spoken out against the Barros appointment—and one is threatening to quit. “Pope Francis has to withdraw this appointment or I and others may find it impossible to stay on the commission,” Peter Saunders told Jason Berry. That would be calamitous for the pope’s reform efforts. Not only would it damage the credibility of the commission itself, but it would give aid and comfort to the curial officials who never wanted it to succeed in the first place.

Photo: CNS photo/Carlos Gutierrez, Reuters

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Commenting Guidelines

This is serious. I have  (had?) been enthusiastic about this pope, but if this is as bad as it sounds, then... 

Aside from creating a commission, it doesn't seem like Francis has made any reforms to how sex abuse and its cover-up will be handled ... look at what he did with Wesolowski.

Very troubling. I think the strange, laconic statement from the Vatican yesterday has only made matters worse.

And the celebration of the Triduum in Osorno's Cathedral of San Mateo this year?

Thanks - like you, what is going on?  What disturbs me more is the Chilean church history and its alignment with power that was abusive, muderous, etc.  (what is going on with Sodano now? Keep your enemies close?)

Don't know enough about Chilean history and the church over the last 30 years but have the episcopal appointments and now the conference shifted away from earlier alignments with the government, etc.?  Is this represented by the lack of the conference wanting or favoring Barros?  That two bishops flew to Rome to protest?

Given Bergolgio's history and connections going back to his own formation days with the Chilean SJs, it surprises me that he isn't doing more to change the direction of the Chilean church?

Confusing and confounding!

Grant Gallicho 's post where he now makes a 'link' teven o the Nazis says it all. This is 'journalism ' where the reporter becomes judge, jury and executioner...

When will Commonweal recogise that Mr Gallicho's reporting on this issue has become obsessive, morbid and unhealthy. 

Thank God he has no pastoral responsibilty. It's his credibility that should be in question not the Pope's.

Agree that this is quite puzzling. And for the shady Soldano to be involved. One would think that Francis feels that there are some who are trying to blackball Barros without cause.  What is also curious about this case is how slowly the story came out. NCR was the only one talking about it for several days. At a conference this week in NYC I asked Antonio Spadaro SJ, Editor of Civita Catolica, about this situation. He said he had not heard anything. Recall that Spadaro was the one who got the exclusive interview with Francis in  September 2013 which America magazine trumpeted. 

Notable also that there has not been one word from the usually loquacious Francis about this. Confounding is the right word. Also that it should threaten the Abuse Commission. 

A lot of troubling questions with few answers. So far.

More than thirty clerics signed a letter asking the pope to reconsider his decision.

Are they from the diocese? That diocese only has 43 priests!

http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/diocese/doson.html

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/02/19/world/americas/ap-lt-chile-bi...

The priests and deacons in the southern city of Osorno made their request to Ivo Scapalo, the papal nuncio in Chile.

43 priests, 23 deacons: total 66. Thirty-one signataries out of 66: trouble!

Jesse, 

Certainly what Grant reports is troubling. Because it is the way it is. The fleeing Nazis just happen to be part of the reporting. He did not invent it. If you are going to ad hominem like that, give some facts. Not generalizations. Your post was as nasty as it was far fetched. 

If only this could turn out to be an April Fool day's hoax.

 

There is a superb movie based, I believe, on a Franz Kafka story, The Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion. The Italian state appoints a police chief for Rome who eventually murders his mistress. To test how efficient the system is, he leaves a trail of clues to nab him. But the police hierarchy destroys all the evidence, and finally declares: Prove to us you are guilt!y The state hierarchy doesn't want to acknowledge that it made the wrong choice.

So, too, Francis. While the hierarchy preaches humility, they don't practice it. For such as Francis to acknowledge a bad decision would seem to be weak, and who wants a weak leader? Are Hitler & Stalin our icons of strong leaders? But the Church should have different standards, and among them humility as something positive.

I'll gladly eat humble pie if Francis apologizes.. And is said to be "offal."

But I won't hold my breath or nose.

Thanks, Grant, for the crisp and fair presentation of a very significant and revealing development.

The unexpected Chilean rebellion, that began in the Osorno Cathedral over the pope’s inexplicable recent appointment of bishop Juan Barros, indicates that the well funded and carefully crafted Pope Francis’ PR image may not make it to Christmas, after the Final Synod. \

The pope will be visiting the USA and the UN this summer and can now expect Osorno-like demonstrations there, perhaps led by Juan Carlos Cruz, a survivor of the sexual abuse that Cruz and others swear Juan Barros condoned. Cruz now lives in Philadelphia where he is a key public relations executive for a top global corporation. He appears to be a brave, shrewd and media savvy advocate for abuse survivors.

I encourage you and your readers to view the further detail, with helpful links, of Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of Bishop Accountability/org, here, 

http://www.bishopaccountability.org/statements/2015_03_31_Doyle_Vatican_...

Also, please consider perusing my related remarks, entitled,

"Chile's Easter Rebellion: Will Pope Francis' PR Image Survive Holy Week Distractions?", here,

 http://christiancatholicism.com/chiles-easter-rebellion-will-pope-franci...

It seems the only reason Francis would have for dumping Barros is that his unpopularity with some is bad for morale. But there is no clear evidence that Barros is guilty of any wrongdoing. Francis would give a shoddy moral example if he tossed someone to the wolves just because he is unpopular.

 

"The bishop is not accused of committing abuse himself. Nor is he accused of improperly handling cases of abusive priests. Indeed, he never supervised Karadima—he was merely a very close friend. Victims say that Barros covered up for Karadima, that he tried to silence them, and that he was actually present when some of them were abused—claims the bishop disputes."

"So what’s really going on here? I wish I knew. Karadima’s victims say Barros is complicit in their abuse. They seem credible. Obviously their testimony helped move the Vatican to discipline Karadima. Barros says he knew nothing about Karadima’s crimes (which the priest denied during his criminal proceeding). “I had no knowledge of the allegations against Rev. Karadima while serving as secretary to Cardinal Juan Francisco Fresno,” Barros asserted in a letter to Osorno Catholics. How credible you find that claim depends on whether you believe letters of complaint about Karadima could have gotten to the cardinal without passing over the desk of his secretary—that is, Barros."

"America Media’s Gerard O’Connell cites unnamed sources—actually, they’re not identified in any way other than “informed”—who claim that the Holy See examined all the evidence and concluded that there is “no legal foundation” to the accusations against Barros. I have no idea what that means, and O’Connell doesn’t explain. Then he cites more unidentified sources who downplay the concerns expressed by several members of the pope’s sexual-abuse commission. O’Connell concludes: “Those who believe otherwise surely have the obligation now to produce solid evidence to substantiate their allegations.” Says who? O’Connell doesn’t explain. That’s his summary of the opinion of yet another unidentified source.

"No doubt Pope Francis and the Congregation for Bishops have more information than is publicly available. As the congregation explained yesterday, it “carefully examined the prelate’s candidature and did not find objective reasons to preclude the appointment.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Did the Vatican find subjective reasons to bounce Barros? Those aren’t in short supply. Perhaps the pope is uncomfortable giving the appearance of acquiescing to a campaign of guilt by association. Or perhaps this is an instance of actual guilt by association. But if that statement is all the Holy See is willing to disclose about the matter, then we may never know."

This is all very flimsy and supposititious. 

Either you just arrived on this planet, (If this is the case I welcome you to Earth) or you are one of the many Catholics who still do not realize, that for decades, church leaders including Pope Francis say beautiful meaningful words and continuously act in direct opposition to those words.

Sir, your understanding and credibility is more than in question, it appears non existent.

The curtain has been pulled away exposing the great and powerful Oz. Why do you continue to intentionally look the other way?

Pope Francis' own words are "objective reasons to preclude this appointment."

......He has called for a Vatican that operates with “absolute transparency”
......He has directed the bishops to act “decisively” in cases of sexual abuse.
......He has said there should not be anyone in positions of trust in the church who doesn't have an absolutely 100 percent record of child protection,
......Pope Francis said "I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons,"

Other objective reasons to halt and investigate this appointment.
.....Three of Karadima’s victims saying that Barros personally witnessed their abuse and did not act to stop it.
.....Barros is also alleged to have destroyed a letter bound for their bishop that laid out the accusations against his mentor.
.....A boycott from most of the deacons and priests in the diocese.
.... Statements of concern from several members of the pope’s sex-abuse advisory board.
.....Hundreds of letters from concerned Catholics.
.....Hundreds of concerned Catholics protesting his installation.
.....The painful effect on Karadima’s victims and on all clergy abuse and coverup victims and their families

Marie Collins said "This seems to be contrary to what he has said,"
Pope Francis has time and time again SHOWN us that when it comes to dealing with clergy sex abuse and the hurtful coverup he does not act in accordance with his words.

When it comes to putting the brakes on a German Archbishop on a
luxury spending spree or Vatican finances, Francis moves with precision
and speed.

When it comes to the clergy sex abuse, child protection and victim reparations he has shown us that protecting his fellow clerics and church assets are most important.

Bergoglio was one of Buenos Aires top executives for 21 years. During that time he has refused to meet with victims but found the time to secretly authorize a leading criminal defense lawyer to produce a multi-volume study aimed at discrediting a clergy abuse victim Gabriel and the two other victims who had brought charges against one of his priests Fr. Grassi. He was convicted of these crimes.

The following examples highlight a disparity between the words and deeds of Pope Francis.

.......The Juan Barros appointment without any reasonable explanation (transparency).

.......The two year O'Brien ordeal shows the polar opposite of acting decisively with transparency.

.......The abuse coverup and bankruptcy of the Minneapolis Archdiocese.

......Josef Wesolowski the Archbishop Nuncio and dangerous pedophile that molested children from the Dominican Republic was seen strolling around Rome while awaiting his Vatican trial. The church continues carelessly putting more children in danger. Did the church reach out to his victims
and their families? A secret criminal Vatican trial for Wesolowski is supposedly scheduled. Wesolowski is comfortably awaiting trial under house arrest. Wesolowski belongs in a Dominican Republic jail, period.

.....If Francis truly was sincere, would Finn still be a Bishop?

......Allowing the ridiculous response to the UN, in regards to having no control outside of Vatican City.

......As far as asking the church to find the grace to weep and make reparations for victims of clergy sex abuse victims. Archbishop Jerome Listecki and the Milwaukee Archdiocese filed bankruptcy stating the reason, to fairly compensate clergy abuse victims. Listecki asked all that were abused to come forward for healing and resolution.

When they did, Listecki spent millions in efforts to toss EVERY SINGLE victims case out of bankruptcy court. Only 3 courageous priests stand with the victims/survivors.

The only ones weeping are the victim/survivors who have been through 4 years of hell, SO FAR. Is this the grace to “make reparations” that Pope Francis spoke of?

With a phone call, Francis could stop the Milwaukee Archdiocese ruthless actions that are only causing pain, betrayal and re-injury of the victims.

Pope Francis continues to protect his fellow clerics and is following the long running church tradition of leaders words not lining up with their deeds.

The two survivors who are members of the Vatican commission advising Pope Francis on clergy sexual abuse are beginning to see that they are being used as props in another Vatican scheme to avoid SINCERELY dealing with the clergy abuse crisis.

As a victim of clergy abuse it pains me to see fellow victims being used as window dressing.
I truly hope that they both resign.

If Pope Francis was serious and SINCERE about reform and healing from the continuing coverup and clergy abuse scandal he would have done what ever it took to get Tom Doyle on his commission.

Marie Collins summed it up when she said "This seems to be contrary to what he has said,"

Another kick in the face to victims/survivors all over the world.

Again, heartfelt gratitude to Grant for his industrious research and decision to cover this vital topic.

@Jerry Slevin - the link to Anne Barrett Doyle's response about the Barros appointment does not work. It just takes you to the home page of bishopaccountability.org.

Here is the text from the abuse tracker entry under 3-31-15 listings:

Vatican defends Chilean appointment - Response by Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director, BishopAccountability.org (cell:781-439-5208)

A Vatican spokeperson's dismissive statement today defending Pope Francis's appointment of Chilean bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid deepens the crisis of credibility that the pope is facing. What's at stake here is nothing less than papal accountability. Francis has pledged to discipline bishops who fail to protect children, and the Chilean public, along with members of his own abuse commission, are determined to hold him to his promise.

[Catholic Herald] http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2015/03/31/vatican-decision-to-appo...

Today's statement is a disingenuous attempt to shift blame for this decision from the pope to the Congregation for Bishops. Pope Francis made the appointment and must own it. He should begin by explaining his deliberate choice to ignore multiple victims' testimony that Barros witnessed their sexual abuse by Karadima. Concepción archbishop Fernando Chomali, who discussed Barros with Francis in person last month, told the New York Times that the pope knew about these serious allegations. "The pope told me he had analyzed the situation in detail and found no reason” to rescind the appointment, Chomali said.

[The New York Times] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/22/world/americas/angry-protest-over-bish...

This response evokes not the compassion and honesty of Pope Francis but the coldness and dismissiveness of Cardinal Bergoglio. As Buenos Aires archbishop, he ignored repeated requests by anguished victims for intervention in their cases. While his colleagues in the US and Europe issued apologies, implemented reforms, and met with victims, he stayed largely silent on the issue of clergy sex abuse, except to issue an implausible denial that he had ever handled an abusive priest. His only known action was to commission a behind-the-scenes report to Argentine Supreme Court judges that impugned the credibility of victims of a criminally convicted priest – an action eerily consistent with the disregard the Pope has shown survivors’ witness in the Barros/Karadima case.

(To access the links below, go to the abuse tracker http://www.bishop-accountability.org/AbuseTracker/ and scroll down under March 31 to this entry. I think I have used up the quota for links already. Bergoglio's record in Argentina is hardly encouraging.)

[BishopAccountability.org's report on pope's response to crisis as archbishop]

[Victims ignored by Cardinal Bergoglio]

[Bergoglio's statement that he never dealt with a guilty priest]

[Summary of case of convicted Argentine priest Julio César Grassi, including Bergoglio's effort to exonerate him]

To regain public trust in his reforms, Pope Francis must explain why he chose Barros despite the victims' testimony, and he must immediately rescind the appointment. Barros must be suspended from ministry while his alleged wrongdoing is investigated.

Going forward, the pope must apply the lessons of the Barros fiasco to appointments, as well as to disciplinary reviews like the Finn investigation, which has been pending for many months. The leaders selected by him in the future must have records that indicate the moral capacity to execute the measures that the pope himself has invoked repeatedly -- 'zero tolerance' and accountability.

It is noteworthy and troubling that neither zero tolerance nor mandatory reporting is included in the universal policy framework – the CDF's 2011 Circular Letter – that Pope Francis said in early February he wants to be "fully implemented." The provisions in the framework are weak, leaving far too much to the individual bishop's discretion. Little good shall come from the Pope's efforts if he holds bishops – or himself – to such a low standard. For the Pope in the Barros/Karadima case, accountability begins at home.

[May 2011 Circular Letter from CDF]

[Pope's February 2015 letter to bishops and religious superiors]

Relative to Bergoglio's and Francis' records on abuse issues: “The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts.” John Locke

As a critic of Bergoglio before he became pope, I have no problem with hauling him over the coals if necessary. But there is still a dearth of "objective" reasons. People are angry (the mob in the cathedral, Danno) or concerned (Marie Collins) but the pope may still genuinely not have found objective grounds for dismissing the new bishop.

 

"Other objective reasons to halt and investigate this appointment.
.....Three of Karadima’s victims saying that Barros personally witnessed their abuse and did not act to stop it. " This is denied by Barros and the Vatican acccepts the denial. Do we know better?
".....Barros is also alleged to have destroyed a letter bound for their bishop that laid out the accusations against his mentor." Do we know if the allegation is true?
".....A boycott from most of the deacons and priests in the diocese." Which shows anger but not the objective basis for it.
".... Statements of concern from several members of the pope’s sex-abuse advisory board." Marie Collins and other members are understandably concerned, but they do not have any more basis than the rest of us for deciding that Barros is guilty of wrongdoing.
".....Hundreds of letters from concerned Catholics." Again not an objective basis for convicting Barros and the pope.
".....Hundreds of concerned Catholics protesting his installation." Again not an objective proof of anything; others in the cathedral celebrated the installation --
".....The painful effect on Karadima’s victims and on all clergy abuse and coverup victims and their families"  In what Grant G. reports above there is no clear connection between this and Barros.

Yes, the Vatican may well be turning a blind eye to wrongdoing and missing obvious trails of wrongdoing, but in what concerns Barros in particular I don't see the objective reasons for dismissing his  denials as lies and Francis's belief in his denials as stupidity.

1. Victims' testimony: Their testimony of the abuse was accepted - Karadima has been judged guilty of sex abuse. Why is one part of their testimony valid but not the other? Transparency requires better than this Vatican statement with no explanations.

2. Destroying an accusing letter: It is plausible. Is there an alternative scenario out there? 

3. Boycott, letters, protests : A boycott form the locals, the people in the know, is highly significant. From a set of people usually little prone to boycotting, it is a real signal. Again, what is the alternative explanation for that  boycott?

4. Marie Collins and other members are concerned. I trust them to know better than me. If they are concerned, then I should be concerned.  If she and others resign, then I should also rescind trust in pope Francis.

My hunch is that Barros did witness abuse but that, in that context, he lacked the courage to call it out and take action, and since in my opinion fighting sex abuse has first priority, that makes him unfit to be a bishop. One does not give responsabilities to someone just because it is not definitively proved that he is unfit. He should be suspended from episcopal responsibilities until that is clarified. 

 

 

John O'Leary, 

Please address the promise of Francis that we should not have a bishop who has the 100% confidence of the people. I understand that 100% may be an unrealistic bar. But Barros having to leave by a side entrance, the bishops and priests of Chile who object.......???

Very long explanation but does analyze the situation:

http://canonicalconsultation.com/blog.html

 

I think there are two levels at which the appointment operates and must be evaluated: the level of prudence and the level of justice.

It is clear that the appointment was imprudent. There is a great deal of anger and distress erupting, rightly or wrongly, at this decision, and the course of prudence is to pull back and restore calm and order. Further, the uproar was projected in advance and could have been avoided if taken seriously at an earlier stage.

On the other hand, it is not clear that the appointment was unjust. We do not know that Barros was lying when he said he had nothing to do with it, or that he suppressed the evidence of Karadima's crimes or connived at them. This is "guilt by association", and that may be enough for people on this blog, but it's not enough to assure justice. There is disagreement about what happened, and we don't have the facts. Saying this or that is "likely" is not a substitute for a fair evaluation. The man is being tried in the streets to answer for rage at someone else's crimes, and that is plain wrong. I am a firm believer that mob justice is no justice. The fact that people are screaming does not mean Barros is guilty as charged. 

Finally, I am appalled at how this has turned into a referendum on Pope Francis's popularity or standing as a reformer. There are more important issues here than the Pope's record. It shows what a sad and silly pedestal we have placed Pope Francis on, that we see this as his drama, and are wringing our hands over the fact that he might be proved wrong and therefore we cannot trust him anymore. Someone can make a wrong decision and still be a reformer. 

 

Thankyou for this excellent article.  I am a physician.  I have been educated by the Jesuits.  I had hopes that Pope Francis would be a man of truth and justice.  I began to have my doubts when I learned that he protected sexual predator clergy when he was Archbishop in Argentina and refused to meet with any of the victims, according to bishopaccountability.org.  

My hopes were raised when he formed a sex abuse commission, which included 2 victim/survivors who I know and respect.  It seems that the commission is just another sham by the Vatican.  How much longer will we Catholics let the pope protect himself and other complicit hierarchy from accountability to criminal and civil law.  Is the rape of children OK if it is done by clergy and other powerful people?  It is time to wake up and to care about protecting the children from an abusive Church which does not deserve to have diplomatic immunity, in my view.

Sincerely,   Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, M.D., M.Spir.

Paul VI would not censor theologians as easily as John Paul II did because he remembered how he was blackballed by the Vatican and sent back to his diocese.  Perhaps Francis identified how he was termed an orthodox by many who were pained when he got elected. He has had a period of his life which he now acknowledges he was too rigid. He calls it "crazy" that he was given so much responsibility at a young age.

Not reporting pedophiles is similar, though on a different level, to those who did not speak up about the Shoah when they really knew what was going on. We have learned not to particularly blame the Germans for their lack of action because too many of us would have done the same thing. In fact graphic showings of the holocaust were delayed for a long time because it was feared that the Jews would demand too much. In other words it is a human problem. Not a German problem. Cover-ups that affect people's lives go on all the time in hospitals, doctors offices and pharmaceutical companies, etc. 

Francis did refuse to meet with those who protested the cover-ups. It is a common problem that we feel we can correct things without input which is felt to be by the "mob."  Further, families cover up pedophilia as well as institutions. Too many of us denied pedophilia  until the Boston Globe made it graphically clear that the abuse as well as the cover-up was going on. 

So it is terribly unfair to lump Francis with others who covered-up and to discredit all that he has done. We have to tame that kind of blanket condemnation. Yet Francis cannot be let off the hook here. Hopefully, he will reevaluate an imprudent decision. 

Rita, I'm not sure you are disagreeing with Grant (or if you meant to!). As you say, and I think most would agree, this appointment does not at all seem pastorally prudent. I'm not really sure what Barros' credentials were for a pastor who "smells of the sheep," leaving aside questions about his abuse record. I would say disagree with you somewhat as I think it does imperil his status as a reformer. Francis has made the hallmark of his papacy, at least as far as the inner workings of the church goes, a battle against clericalism and the Old Boys Network and for a more pastoral leadership that serves, especially those at the margins. He denounces church-by-legalism all the time and a legalistic response in the Barros case, as the Vatican gave, is not sufficient or at least out of character. That's perilous for Francis' pontificate, it seems to me.

David, thanks, yes you are correct that I am not disagreeing with Grant, who acknowledged in the post that Barros denies the charges, and that the case is not an open and shut case of wrongdoing on Barros's part, despite Karadima's crimes. 

As to the second question you raise, OK, fair enough. The credibility of his earlier statements is being put to the test by how he acts in this conflict situation. Sadly, credibility of church officials is at such an all-time low that trusting that this will come 'round right in the end, or accepting the fact that the Pope could be wrong in one instance but right in others isn't an option for many people. I agree that this case is out of character, and the response legalistic. But does that mean that everything else good that we've seen is phony? I doubt it.

No, you are right. One mistake, or one act does not invalidate the rest. But Francis has made a new approach to the abuse crisis a real litmus test, and so this has greater resonance. It needs greater transparency as well. Francis would have a deeper reservoir of credibility to buffer himself, and appointments like those of Barros, if he had dumped someone like Bp Finn or if he had forced Cdl O'Brien (a different issue but same question of hierarchical accountability) to resign and taken his cardinaliatial title away from him.

Bill Mazella: Your statement,

So it is terribly unfair to lump Francis with others who covered-up and to discredit all that he has done. We have to tame that kind of blanket condemnation. Yet Francis cannot be let off the hook here. Hopefully, he will reevaluate an imprudent decision.

seems to me to be the most common sense amd balanced evaluation of the Holy Father's actions.  And I say this as someone who rarely agrees with you about anything.

There was a psychiatrist who was brought to the Vatican who specialized in sexual offences towards minors and that entire forensic area. In an interview he said official were very interested in his drawing distinctions between pre-pubescent and pubescent and adolescent targets for those offending priests and religious and the whole area of sexuality.

These same officials were uncomfortable when he asked them to think about the more important question - namely what structural issues contribute to this universal silence and dysfunction.

The issue is larger than this. The issue is that the structure of the Roman Catholic church is sick, corrupt and largely contributes to (in the judgement of clinicians in the area) the entire problem.

Leaders in the Church are unwilling and unable to address these larger strucural issues in any meaningful way. The evidence for this is that they do not even want to engage in sustained reflection. The apostle John referred to the Babylonian whore. Important questions need to be asked and answered. Good Friday tomorrow and perhaps the Church can be crucified and the new Church, new life can emerge out the embers of this rotting corpse.

Justice:  no one can be judged better than the worst thing they ever did. 

 

I kept looking for Barros' name in the article but it seemed only to appear as a parenthetical to the real players and action.

Is this just proof that, when the chips are down, Francis is just one more self-protecting cleric who will not admit to making a mistake, apologize for it, and find a way of undoing what has been done?

“The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts.” (Misattributed to James Joyce)  John Locke, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), Book I, Chapter II, paragraph 3

The man in question is now a bishop, but that doesn't mean that he has to be given any bishopy authority nor responsibilities.

 

"I kept looking for Barros' name in the article but it seemed only to appear as a parenthetical to the real players and action."

True,  but somewhat more intimate details are given in the Hasselberger piece liked to by Bill deHaas above.

Correction, Haselberger. This is what she quotes from NYT:

"When we were in Karadima’s bedroom, Juan Barros saw how he touched us and made us kiss him,” said Mr. Cruz, referring to himself and other young victims. “He witnessed all of that countless times. And he has covered it all up.”

"Other reports indicate that the victims allege that Karadima also fondled Barros in their presence, and Cruz states he saw Karadima and Juan Barros kissing and touching each other."

A lawyer might note that the alleged abuse consisted in fondling and kissing, of adults (except possibly for one of the alleged victims at the beginning of the activity, which went on for years). Such activity might be interpretable in different ways, even by its particiipants. Barros, even if all this is factually correct, may have been unaware of more egregious abuse of which Karadima was convicted.

While Barros's friendship with Karadima is not the topic of outrage, it could in fact be the only substance to the allegations and people could be extrapolating from it -- as could easily happen in a charged climate.

 

Can someone explain to me what Joseph O is talking about in the above post at 10.05 pm?

He is talking about the text linked by Bill de Haas.

 

it is not clear that the appointment was unjust

Rita, I do not think that an episcopal appointment is something that a person has a right to, and that he ought to keep, barring proof of misdeeds. I think of it as a position with responsibilities, that must not be exercised by someone whose fitness is in obvious doubt, until things are clarified. For example, you do not hire as a babysitter someone who is accused by many of being irresponsible - you wait until you know better before hiring him. It's not "mob justice". You don't declare him irresponsible, but you do wait until you know better before entrusting him with children.

I agree that we don't know what's going on, and in particular we have not been hearing any other scenario, not even hypothetical, which is a little strange. If there is a diffamation campaign being run against Bp Barros, what would that be about?  

I am struck by the petition signed by 31 priests and deacons. It brings to mind the petition of 58 priests asking for the resignation of Cardinal Law. I do not think that priests and deacons take that kind of action lightly. "Non placet"!

I understand what you are saying about pope Francis. For some subjects I agree. I can live with a little sexism, a few old-fashioned ideas every now and then, and they don't prevent me from listening to him eagerly. But the sex abuse scandal is a different matter.  I hope that pope Francis will show us what transparency and humility mean to him - humility, to acknowledge that he was wrong, if he was; transparency, to give more of an explanation of why he was right, if he was, and give us a fuller picture of his views of what is or is not tolerable in sex abuse matters, and why. What is he thinking?

 

If there is a diffamation campaign being run against Bp Barros, what would that be about?

The only thing I can think of that might be plausible is that the opposition to him is some amalgam of victims' advocates, Catholics "in the street" with genuine concerns, and Chilean political opposition.  I take it from Grant's post that Barros and his associates have been pretty closely allied with Chile's right wing.

Perhaps along similar lines: if we'll recall, in the immediate wake of Pope Francis' election, when most of the world was scratching hits collective head and asking itself, Who is this guy? a series of attack articles emanated from Argentina, authored by a journalist who, it has been alleged, is closely allied with Argentina's left-wing government.  I am wondering if this is the sort of intepretive lens through which Francis is seeing the situation.

This is just a SWAG on my part.  I know virtually nothing about Chilean politics.  And I agree with you, Claire, that the public opposition of a majority of his own clergy is pretty significant.  Finally, I would ask readers to please not take this comment as defending the appointment, but rather as a simple speculation about what may be going on.

 

(So sorry for the typos in the previous comment.  I get annoyed when I read them, and I'm guessing others do, too.  I'd correct 'em if I could.)

Pet peeve:  When, given the vitriol and bad faith that all too often infect blog comments, it is presumed I can’t look through (and past) simple typos.  ;-)

Barros’s installation Mass was a circus. Thousands protesting outside the cathedral. Chaos inside. Demonstrators throwing objects at their new shepherd. Most Chilean bishops failing even to show up.

I'm trying to take a break from all the corruption, complicity and compromise this Good Friday morning.  But, it does seem strangely appropriate for the hierarchy to be exposed to this kind of public humiliation - Papa Francesco included - is really the perfectly appropriate anecdote.  

[For this level of roaring narcissism, public shaming of hierarchs during their greatest moment each year on the public stage is about the right dosage of very bitter medicine.]

I know I sound like a Johnny-one-note, but the only response to this tragic mess:

LET the PEOPLE DECIDE!

 

Mark - there is probably some spiritual analogy here: sins that we'd correct if we could, but we can't, and we need to rely on the forgiveness of others and the mercy of God. :-)

Ah, the Sacred Triduum is underway, an excellent occasion for some of Commonweal's most prodigious bloggers to make yet one more effort to assert that there is no cause or issue on earth more important than charges of episcopal complicity in the sexual abuse of minors. Thus a case is mounted again that Francis is a hypocrite or maybe even a liar, but certainly not a true reformer. How about believing that he is operating on a different set of facts? Is it reasonable to expect that every episcopal appointment will meet with approval from Gerry Slevin or Dr. McHugh? Before the jury charges me with failing to grasp the gravity of this matter, I personally wish that Barros will resign when it occurs to him that he cannot serve. I am further in favor of Francis, should objective evidence clearly warrant it, facilitate the resignation and issue an apology. But I will not indulge the theater of the absurd folks by denying that Francis, whatever his shortcomngs, is the church's best hope for a radical renewal of its mission to proclaim the gospel. 

The Sacred Triduum should remind us not to put our hope in the clergy. Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, and the rest of the "twelve" fled. The women stayed with Him and discovered He had risen. 

Historically much more reform and renewal in the Church has come from religious whose charisms are grounded in baptism rather than from bishops and synods.

In this post I find it encouraging that the people are demonstrating, essentially affirming that this bishop is not their choice. And the priests are also speaking up as they did with Law in Boston. And the bishops appear not to be closing ranks. It all sounds like the "messy" church the Francis has called for.

A real reform will be a very messy one from the bottom up, and will arise from the peripheries not the center.  Francis will likely accomplish very little in Rome or in changing the bishops. The key question is whether Catholics are able to break their dependency upon the clergy and the church business model of a corporate NGO and become a poor church for the poor in our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, and civic areas.  

Wish lay people could still elect their bishops.

If bishops were properly elected, as in the past, the present scenario would have been impossile. It is really a stand-off between the Vatican's claim of total control over episcopal appointements on the one hand and the assertion of the rights and responsibility of the laity and lower clergy on the other. When push comes to shove, Francis comes across as a man of the status quo.

When push comes to shove, Francis comes across as a man of the status quo.

If the question is, Will the people elect a bishop, I think we should expect Francis to come across as a man of the status quo even without any pushing or shoving.  I can't think of anything Francis himself has said or done to suggest it's even a remote possibility.

 

Hey Jack, the people you named were not clerics in any sense in which those words are used today. It is true nonetheless that the upper clergy (as opposed to us pee-ons) have a grip on the power structure that makes it exceedingly difficult for those who comprise 99% of church members to effect changes that don't require them to opt out. One reason for this is that all church "politics" is local. Just as citizens might want to topple corrupt politicians while admiring the ones they voted in, parishioners who are happy enough with their priests or their bishop don't exhibit a lot of interest in what awful things might be going on in someone else's parish or diocese. But 90% of American Catholics think well of Pope Francis and he was elected, remember. Thus many have high hopes that with his leadership they may actually have a shot at a truly good life despite their considerable sins. This emphasis on hope in God's mercy, however, does not appeal to those I refer to as professional "Catholics" who are so ticked at their own powerlessness that they keep clamoring for the ousting of those whose sins are really bad--as opposed to their own. I have no problem with the existence of anger and resentment, but I do have a problem with regarding them as virtues.

Anger is the healthy response to injustice.  Even Jesus got angry.

J.W.F.

To follow your political analogy:

While many countries around the world now have the trappings of democracy, the evidence is that elites run rough shod over the law unless there are people and institutions who are willing to protest. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. 

So I think Grant in this post and many of the commenters are doing both society and their fellow Catholics a great deal of service by keeping up the criticism of the clerical establishment including Pope Francis.

Francis has encouraged us to make a mess, not be worried about making mistakes, and not be worried about disagreements. Francis has given us a process not the answers.  Why be judgmental about people who have different roles and opinions in that process?

Cyrstal,

Jim Martin has an interesting column over at America

http://www.americamagizine.org/issue/furious-mysteries

"the number of times Jesus gets angry in the Gospels is considerable."

 

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