VATICAN (ChurchMilitant.com) – Pope Francis is apologizing for his response to a priestly sex abuse scandal in Chile.
In a letter to the bishops of Chile published Sunday, Pope Francis discussed the handling of the sex abuse cover-up scandal surrounding a prelate in Chile, Bp. Juan Barros.
For years, Bp. Barros has been accused of covering up priest sex abuse back in the 1980s. During his visit to Latin America in January, Pope Francis said that sex abuse victims were slandering Bp. Barros. During an in-flight press conference on January 18, the pope said, “The day they bring me proof against Bp. Barros, I’ll speak. There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”
In Sunday’s letter, the pope apologized for the way he handled the Barros situation, writing:
As for my own responsibility, I acknowledge, and I want you to faithfully convey it that way, that I have made serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation, especially because of the lack of truthful and balanced information. Right now, I ask forgiveness from all those I offended, and I hope to be able to do so personally, in the coming weeks, in the meetings I will have with representatives of the people who were interviewed.
According to the translation by Catholic News Agency, the pope’s letter to the Chilean bishops invited them to come to Rome “to discuss the conclusions and the aforementioned visit and my conclusions.”
In the wake of the backlash to his remarks about Bp. Barros during his visit to Latin America, the Holy Father revived a dormant sex abuse commission to investigate the Bp. Barros scandal and to meet with the accusers.
The pope’s controversial comment in January was not the first time he spoke in defense of Bp. Barros. In 2015, Pope Francis called those who criticize Bp. Barros “dumb,” claiming they are “led by the nose by the leftists who orchestrated all of this.”
There was further controversy when Pope Francis denied receiving a letter from one of Bp. Barros’ accusers. The author of the letter, Juan Carlos Cruz, claims he was abused by Chilean priest Fr. Fernando Karadima in the 1980s. Cruz claims Bp. Barros, then just a priest, was witness to Fr. Karadima’s abuse of Cruz and did nothing about it. Cruz was a seminarian at the time of the alleged abuse.
Pope Francis claimed he never received any letters from the abuse victims, but Cruz came forward to say that he did, in fact, send a letter to the pope back in 2015.
In February this year, the Holy Father sent an investigator to meet with Cruz and hear his story. Specifically, the pope sent Abp. Charles Scicluna of Malta to meet with Cruz at a parish in New York City.
Regarding this and other parts of the investigation, Pope Francis wrote in the recent letter to Chile’s bishops, “Now, after a careful reading of the proceedings of this ‘special mission,’ I believe I can affirm that the collected testimonies speak in a stark way, without additives or sweeteners, of many crucified lives, and I confess to you that that causes me pain and shame.”
The pope’s letter also stated, “I am writing to you … to humbly request your collaboration and assistance in discerning the short, mid and long-term measures that must be adopted to re-establish ecclesial communion in Chile, with the goal of repairing as much as possible the scandal and re-establishing justice.”