The Catholic Church has faced scrutiny and scandal over sexual abuse within its ranks for years.
While the Vatican clearly hoped to leave that issue behind and move forward, a scathing new report is bringing the scandal back into the public spotlight… and it looks like Pope Francis may be in the center of the storm.
Despite the pope reportedly claiming that the church was not aware of any sex abuse victims by a circle of clergymen in Chile, The Associated Press is reporting that Francis personally received a detailed letter from a victim outlining that very type of abuse… and the head of the worldwide church may have helped cover up the actions of the perpetrators.
“The fact that Francis received the eight-page letter, obtained by the AP, challenges his insistence that he has ‘zero tolerance’ for sex abuse and cover-ups,” the AP reported. “It also calls into question his stated empathy with abuse survivors, compounding the most serious crisis of his five-year papacy.”
Bishop Juan Barros of Chile is accused by several victims of covering up the actions of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, who allegedly molested young boys. The pope called this claim “slander” and rebuked reporters for investigating the issue prior to word of the letter coming out.
During a plane trip from South America to Vatican City, an Associated Press journalist questioned the pope about protests and abuse claims that have been plaguing the church.
“You, in all good will, tell me that there are victims, but I haven’t seen any, because they haven’t come forward,” Francis responded, according to Fox News.
Here’s the problem: The eight-page letter which dates to 2015 appears to directly undermine the pope’s assertion that no victims had come forward.
“But members of the pope’s Commission for the Protection of Minors said that in April 2015, they sent a delegation to Rome specifically to hand-deliver a letter to the pope about Barros,” Fox reported.
“The letter from Juan Carlos Cruz detailed the abuse, kissing and fondling he said he suffered at Karadima’s hands. He claimed Barros and others witnessed the abuse but ignored it.”
Cruz, who now lives in Philadelphia, told the AP that high-ranking members of the church, including the Vatican’s top abuse adviser, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, assured him it had been delivered to Pope Francis.
“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,” Cruz told the AP.
Excerpts of that letter have been published by the AP and other news sources, and tell a heart-wrenching story of a believer who was let down by his own church.
“Holy Father, I write you this letter because I’m tired of fighting, of crying and suffering,” Cruz wrote. “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.”
Details within the letter, if true, are deeply disturbing.
“Cruz goes on to detail in explicit terms the homo-eroticized nature of the circle of priests and young boys around Karadima, the charismatic preacher whose El Bosque community in the well-to-do Santiago neighborhood of Providencia produced dozens of priestly vocations and five bishops, including Barros,” reported Fox.
The letter also reportedly begged Francis to listen and fulfill his promise of “zero tolerance” on the issue of sexual abuse. Instead, it appears that the pope doubled down on his denial about the scandal.
It’s time for the Catholic Church to take these claims seriously. The unfortunate fact is that a history of similar abuses within the church give these latest claims credence.
Acting like this issue is anything other than serious, alarming, and appalling is wrong. The church is supposed to provide and restore hope and faith, not destroy them.
Francis has a lot of explaining to do, and it looks like this situation will haunt the Vatican for years to come.
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