In a comment on another thread Iggy O Donovan asks
“Can anybody shed light on the reported comments of Francis in Chile regarding Bishop Barros Madrid. It appears to have offended abuse survivors and if true would definitely cast a negative cloud over his papacy. Also from the point of view of his Irish visit it would make itself felt and not in a positive way.”
To provide some information on this subject we carry a report from americamagazine.org and a statement issued by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston.
‘This is calumny’: Pope Francis defends Bishop Barros against charges he knew of sexual abuse
January 18, 2018
Pope Francis today defended the controversial Chilean bishop, Juan Barros, when asked by Chilean journalists on arrival at Iquique, in the north of Chile, whether he supported the bishop.
“The day they bring me proof against the bishop, then I will speak. There is not a single proof against him. This calumny! Is that clear?” Francis stated.
Many in Chile opposed Francis’ appointment of Msgr. Barros as bishop of Osorno and still do because he is known to have belonged to the inner circle of the charismatic Chilean priest, the Rev. Fernado Karadima, against whom accusations of child abuse were leveled in 2010. State prosecutors could not intervene against Father Karadima then because of the statute of limitations, but a church inquiry did. Following its findings, he was removed from the ministry at the age of 80 and directed to a life of prayer and penance. Msgr. Barros was close to him and served as his secretary for a number of years, and very many people here feel he covered up Father Karadima’s abuse, but the bishop denies ever knowing anything about it. He repeated his denial in recent days when asked by the Chilean media and denounced the allegations as “calumny.” Many find it difficult to believe that he knew nothing.
There have been denunciations against Bishop Barros for a cover-up, with some claiming that he was present when some of the abuse happened. But he flatly denies the charges, and the church inquiry that was carried out concluded that, while there are many allegations, there are no hard facts that could stand up in a court to substantiate such charges.
Because Father Karadima was a high-profile priest, known throughout the country, the accusations and finding that he abused children shocked the nation.
Juan Carlos Cruz has publicly accused Father Karadima of abusing him and alleges that Bishop Barros was present when this happened, though the bishop categorically denies it.
On hearing what the pope said today, Mr. Cruz in a tweet commented, “How could one take a photo or a selfie while Karadima abused me and others with Barros standing at his side?” He said the pope’s words about reparation to the victims are meaningless.
There were many protests against Francis’ appointment of Bishop Barros, especially at the time of his installment. There was an international conference on the day the pope arrived that also highlighted accusations against the bishop. There have been some small protests during the visit but nothing significant.
There have been ongoing calls for the pope to remove Bishop Barros. Francis has ordered investigations but, as he made clear this morning, no one has come up with hard evidence against the bishop. And unless such proof presented to the pope, the bishop will remain in charge of the Diocese of Osorno
January 20, 2018 Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley Statement
“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.
Not having been personally involved in the cases that were the subject of yesterday’s interview I cannot address why the Holy Father chose the particular words he used at that time. What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and it’s clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.
Accompanying the Holy Father at numerous meetings with survivors I have witnessed his pain of knowing the depth and breadth of the wounds inflicted on those who were abused and that the process of recovery can take a lifetime. The Pope’s statements that there is no place in the life of the Church for those who would abuse children and that we must adhere to zero tolerance for these crimes are genuine and they are his commitment.
My prayers and concern will always be with the survivors and their loved ones. We can never undo the suffering they experienced or fully heal their pain. In some cases we must accept that even our efforts to offer assistance can be a source of distress for survivors and that we must quietly pray for them while providing support in fulfillment of our moral obligation. I remain dedicated to work for the healing of all who have been so harmed and for vigilance in doing all that is possible to ensure the safety of children in the community of the Church so that these crimes never happen again.”