Pope Francis has denied knowledge of a clerical sex abuse scandal, despite reports that he received a victim’s letter in 2015 detailing how a priest sexually assaulted him and Chilean clergy ignored it.
“You, in all good will, tell me that there are victims, but I haven’t seen any, because they haven’t come forward,” Francis told a reporter from The Associated Press.
In the AP’s report, Juan Carlos Cruz, the author of the eight-page letter challenged Francis’ claim that he has “zero tolerance ” for sex abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic Church.
During Francis’ trip to South America, there were many protests about the pope’s defense of Bishop Juan Barros who has been accused of witnessing and ignoring abuse inflicted by the Rev. Fernando Karadima, the AP reported.
According to members of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, a delegation was sent to Rome in April 2015 to hand deliver Cruz’s letter to Francis. They gave the letter to Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Francis’ top abuse adviser, and explained their concern over Barros’ appointment as a bishop.
“When we gave him (O’Malley) the letter for the pope, he assured us he would give it to the pope and speak of the concerns,” former commission member Marie Collins told the AP. “And at a later date, he assured us that that had been done.”
Cruz had received similar assurances that his letter had been delivered.
“Cardinal O’Malley called me after the pope’s visit here in Philadelphia and he told me, among other things, that he had given the letter to the pope — in his hands,” he said.
After the AP reported that Francis claimed to have never heard from any of the victim’s about Barro’s behavior, the publication was given Cruz’s letter and a photograph of Collins handing the letter to O’Malley.
“Holy Father, I write you this letter because I’m tired of fighting, of crying and suffering,” Cruz’s letter read. “Our story is well known and there’s no need to repeat it, except to tell you of the horror of having lived this abuse and how I wanted to kill myself.”
Despite the assurances from O’Malley that the letter was delivered, the pope still said that he hadn’t heard from any victims.
“No one has come forward. They haven’t provided any evidence for a judgment,” Francis said. “This is all a bit vague. It’s something that can’t be accepted.”
The pope also stood by his defense of Barros, claiming that “I’m certain he’s innocent.”
“If anyone can give me evidence, I’ll be the first to listen,” Francis said.
Cruz responded, “I was upset and at the same time I couldn’t believe that someone so high up like the pope himself could lie about this.”
Cruz and other survivors had been dismissed by some of the Chilean church’s hierarchy and the Vatican’s ambassador in Santiago for their denouncement of Karadima’s crimes.
“Holy Father, it’s bad enough that we suffered such tremendous pain and anguish from the sexual and psychological abuse, but the terrible mistreatment we received from our pastors is almost worse,” the letter continued.
Cruz’s letter went on to describe the “homo-eroticized nature of the circle of priests and young boys around Karadima,” the AP reported.
“Juan Barros covered up everything that I have told you,” Cruz wrote.
Barros, for his part, has denied witnessing or covering up any abuse.
“I never knew anything about, nor ever imagined, the serious abuses which that priest committed against the victims,” he told the AP. “I have never approved of nor participated in such serious, dishonest acts, and I have never been convicted by any tribunal of such things.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.