Failing to Address Abuse: The Real Legacy of the Pope's Visit to Chile

Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, centre, during a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis, far right, on Thursday near Iquique, Chile. The Pope said there was "not one single piece of evidence" that Bishop Barros had protected a peadophile priest.
Credit Vincenzo Pinto/Agence France Presse - Getty Images

The papal plane stunt provided a great smoke-screen from the Pope awarding a extremist lgbt / pro-abortion politician a Knighthood in the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great (although this was pretty well hidden among a plethora of awful ecclesial developments over the last week as I noted in this post). But there was another, much bigger issue which this PR stunt was perhaps designed to cover up, as Robert Mickens (not the most traddy journalist on the planet) points out in this La Croix article:
Pope Francis has been away in South America this past week and, while in Chile, he drew only modest crowds of supporters. It was the frostiest reception he’s received on any of his 22 foreign trips — at least to those countries with a majority of Christians and certainly in the traditionally Catholic lands of Latin America. 
What the trip made glaringly clear is that, despite the support Francis has received for his many good and inspiring steps to restore evangelical credibility to the church and its mission, [what are they then?] many people still see him as “all talk and no action” when it comes to the issue of clergy sex abuse — especially in holding accountable those bishops who tried to cover it up. 
The best-known case of this in Chile directly involves the pope and his unwavering support of Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, who has been accused of protecting one of the country’s most notorious abusing priests. Many Chileans were angered when the pope allowed the bishop to concelebrate at the largest public Mass of the papal trip.
And while the surprising and touching wedding ceremony that Francis performed for two flight attendants during an inland flight on Thursday may have deflected attention from this for a fleeting moment, it is not likely to reassure the people of Chile — or many other Catholics from around the world — who continue to be disappointed and confused by the pope’s apparent inaction on sex abuse.
This has long been the ugliest blot on his pontificate. And in the course of a few days it is now even uglier. 
Pope Francis’ credibility in dealing with sexual abuse has always been questionable, despite the many excuses and the positive “spin” his apologists and adulators have continued to put forth.
It is undeniable that he has done far less than Benedict XVI did in addressing sexual abuse in the church, and yet the press has treated Francis with far greater tolerance for his omissions than it would have ever conceded to his now-retired predecessor.
Francis simply has been flatfooted on the issue. 
It took Cardinals Reinhard Marx and Sean O’Malley, members of his C9 “privy council,” to convince the Jesuit pope to establish the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) and other now-aborted attempts to deal with sex abuse.
But after three years of activity, the mandate of the commission’s members has expired. The PCPM has effectively been in mothballs now for over a month.
Marie Collins, who was arguably the most credible member of the commission, shared her frustration this week over the PCPM’s abeyance. 
“It appears to me that the obvious lack of urgency or any slight of concern in the Vatican about the commissions’ current status reflects how unimportant the membership is considered. Also the low priority being given to this issue of child protection despite the assurances so often given by the pope and others that it has the highest priority!” she wrote on her blog.

This is damning. And Pope Francis — and all who support his efforts to reform and renew the church — should be very concerned.
“Why has the pope not disciplined bishops who mishandled sex abuse cases?”
Perhaps because he did the same thing.
There is fairly substantial evidence, even if Francis’ supporters have always denied or refused to believe it, that when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires and president of Argentina’s episcopal conference the future pope did little very little to remove or report priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

Some alleged victims have said Cardinal Bergoglio did not even answer their letters of complaint. They’ve also said he refused to meet them or apologize to them.

Perhaps this pope — a man who so deeply lives with the knowledge that he is a sinner who has been forgiven and needs to continually to be reminded of that forgiveness — is hampered by this painful admission: “Who am I to judge other bishops who, to one degree or another, failed to deal with complaints of sexual abuse just as I did?”
There was more fuel added to the fire when the Pope accused abuse survivors of calumny against Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno who they say kept quiet after allegedly witnessing Fr Fernando Karadima abusing minors. Fr Karadima was later convicted, and sentenced by the Vatican to a life of penance and prayer.

Asked by reporters on his the last day of his visit to Chile whether he still stood by the bishop, Pope Francis responded: “The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will speak. There is not a single piece of evidence against him, it is all calumny. Is that clear?”

On Twitter, Barros’ “most vocal accuser”, Juan Carlos Cruz, lashed out about the absurdity of the pope expecting proof from his abuse:
Cruz reiterated his outrage in an exchange with intrepid papal tailgater Austen Ivereigh, when the latter questioned his claims. “Does he need a photo, a selfie, as proof? Sorry Austen, we did not think of it as we were being abused and Juan Barros watching.”

According to the Associated Press, the pope’s “astonishing” comments “drew shock from Chileans and immediate rebuke from victims and their advocates.”

A group of Karadima victims spoke out against the pope’s words yesterday, saying, “This is serious and we cannot accept it … what he has done today is offensive and painful, and it also reveals an unknown face of the Pontiff.”

The full details are on One Peter Five here.

The pope’s comments set off a storm in Chile, raising questions about his commitment to repairing the damage from sexual abuse scandals and improving the decline in the church’s image and following in the traditionally devout country.

Benito Baranda, coordinator of the pope’s visit to Chile, told a radio station in Santiago that Bishop Barros “should have ceased to be bishop a long time ago.” He added: “The damage he is inflicting on the church is big.”

Mr. Baranda, a psychologist, said that the church “never believed Karadima’s victims from the start” and that the pope’s support for the bishop “reignites the feeling of not being believed, or that they are exaggerating or being deceitful. It’s like when children say they suffer abuse but no one believes them because they are children.”

Anne Barrett Doyle, a co-director of, a group that monitors abuse cases, called the pope’s remarks “a stunning setback.”

She added: “He has just turned back the clock to the darkest days of this crisis. Who knows how many victims now will decide to stay hidden, for fear they will not be believed?”

And the government’s spokeswoman, Paula Narváez, said on her Twitter account: “Respecting, believing and supporting victims of sexual abuse is an ethical imperative. No institutional defense can override this basic principle for a fair society, one that is empathetic with those who most need it.”

Another bizarre jigsaw piece in this abuse puzzle for me is Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Belgium. Here he is on the balcony as Pope Francis is presented to the world after the conclave:

Filip Mazurczak reported some time ago how Cardinal Danneels was the reason for a catastrophic decline in the faith in Belgium. Danneels publicly questioned the Church’s teachings on the ordination of women, homosexuality, and contraception, and as a result Belgian Mass attendance fell to between 5 and 10 percent in this period. Belgium was among the first nations to legalise abortion on demand, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage—with little Catholic opposition. Priest shortages became endemic. Once a world capital of Catholic learning, the Catholic University of Leuven today makes Georgetown look like Ave Maria. 

During the 2005 conclave, Danneels was the top papabile “progressive” Catholics dreamed of seeing in white on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. However, a couple years later his reputation declined as it was revealed that he knew of the sexual abuse of children by priests in his diocese, yet did nothing. As Micken's article demonstrates, even "progressives" won't stand for child abuse.

In 2015 it was revealed that two Belgian politicians have admitted for the first time openly that Cardinal Godfried Danneels tried to convince King Baudouin to sign the law on abortion in 1990. Does Danneels prominence in the Pope Francis line-up mean he shares the Belgian's attitude to abortion?

Cardinal Danneels wrote a letter to the Belgian government arguing FOR same-sex "marriage" legislation wrongly arguing that it ended discrimination against LGBT groups. But worse, he drove decent parents to have to protest against his sex ed material (which verged on the pornographic) outside his residence and then to leave these poor parents to have to try and face down the Nuncio who in turn had Belgian police ready round the corner from his house with water cannons loaded to fire on them in defence of the innocent souls of their children is the far greater sin crying to heaven against him for vengeance in my view...for denying the primary educator their inalienable rights before God as he and countless other churchmen do the world over with their morally corrupting sex ed classes in their schools is like unto the worker deprived of his wages.

Danneels admitted, in his authorised biography, to being part of a secret group of cardinals he called a 'Mafia' Club opposed to Pope Benedict XVI. The group wanted a drastic reform of the Church, to make it "much more modern", and for Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to head it. The group, which also comprised Cardinal Walter Kasper and the late Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, has also been documented in Austen Ivereigh's biography of Pope Francis, "The Great Reformer".

In 1996, Pope St. John Paul II promulgated the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, on the Vacancy of the Apostolic See and the Election of the Roman Pontiff. In this document, Pope St. John Paul II said that any Cardinal elector who engages in a pact to give or deny their vote to a person or persons would incur an automatic excommunication. Cardinal Godfried Danneels admits to having engaged in such a pact. Therefore, he and any other cardinal elector who engaged in the pact with him is excommunicated.

Here is a quote from the document:

81. The Cardinal electors shall further abstain from any form of pact, agreement, promise or other commitment of any kind which could oblige them to give or deny their vote to a person or persons. If this were in fact done, even under oath, I decree that such a commitment shall be null and void and that no one shall be bound to observe it; and I hereby impose the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae upon those who violate this prohibition. It is not my intention however to forbid, during the period in which the See is vacant, the exchange of views concerning the election.

So just what is Pope Francis doing for the Church? As a friend commented recently, following a series of outspoken (and therefore highly unusual) criticisms of Pope Francis broadcast on EWTN: when EWTN and the REGISTER are full of panic about this Pope, you KNOW there is really a problem. Why? because they are supported by the same super-rich types who support the US cardinals -- who are NOW fully aware of the huge blunder they made in supporting this man's candidacy. My friend went on to explain that they heard from a reliable source that Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor regularly boasted how he persuaded the American Cardinals to vote for Jorge Bergoglio.  The American Cardinals believed the Brit in their naivety but now they all have buyer's remorse, except perhaps Wuerl and Mahony and a few others (Tobin? Cupich?). 

If you take a look at EWTN this rings very true. Well known for being cautious and mainstream, because their big donors wouldn't permit coverage like we are presently seeing if they weren't in a huge panic. And now, as Micken's article demonstrates, even progressives are feeling failed by The Great Reformer.

It is hard for me to see anything positive about this Pope who rides rough-shod over doctrine, canon law, theological norms, philosophical wisdom and just about everything the Church has stood for.

Stunts like the wedding on the plane will have reverberations for priests everywhere. The furore over Amoris Laetitia can only serve to damage respect for the teaching authority of the Church and the proposed direction offers mercy to everyone except those who have given up everything to be obedient to Christ.


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