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An Update on the Chilean Barros Scandal and its Ties to Pope Francis

In recent weeks, more information about the Barros case has come to us which is worth reporting. The Chilean Cardinal Javier Errázuriz Ossa – one of the members of the pope’s Council of Nine Cardinals – recently wrote a letter to various Latin American bishops’ conferences complaining about the fact that Bishop Juan Barros’ presence during the pope’s visit to Chile in January of 2018 drew too much attention to his case. Cardinal Errázuriz himself did not seem to be concerned about the whole Karadima sex abuse scandal itself, or that Bishop Barros might be culpably complicit in it. We shall now present some facts that might explain why it is so. For, Cardinal Errázuriz seems to have had a role himself in covering up that case for years while still in Chile.

First about the news. In that above-mentioned widely circulated letter – which was leaked and subsequently reported on by the progressivist newspaper National Catholic Reporter, on 9 March, Errázuriz complains that “Barros made himself available for interviews with journalists after concelebrating at Masses with Francis along with other Chilean bishops.” (Nota Bene: our colleague in Germany, Giuseppe Nardi, reports that, according to Roman sources, it was Pope Francis himself who insisted upon Barros concelebrating with him. In any event, he would have had an influential word in the matter.) Errázuriz also bemoans that Barros “did not avoid group interviews” and gave the impression “that he considered them a favorable opportunity to spread his version of things and to defend himself against the accusations.” According to the Reporter, Barros is now being accused of having “destroyed incriminating correspondence from the priest [Karadima].” Later on in the letter, Errázuriz also regrets that there was no better “press speaker” available during the pope’s visit.

What is striking here is that this cardinal is more concerned about matters of public relations and of appearances, rather than being attentive to reveal the larger truth about Bishop Barros, and, thereby, to help the abuse victims. Let us thus look more deeply into his own role in the Barros-Karadima case.

In a recent interview with the German bishops’ news website, Juan Carlos Cruz, one of the victims of the abusive priest (Father Fernando Karadima), insisted upon the fact that Karadima had been protected by cardinals and bishops. He also mentions, in addition to Bishop Barros, Bishop Tomislav Koljatic and Horacio Valenzuela, “all of whom have covered up for the sexual abuse,” and he calls for a “very detailed investigation.” He then comes to speak about Cardinal Errázuriz. When asked why he does not have any trust in the Chilean Church, Juan Carlos Cruz says:

We have always been encouraged to give testimony, and this we always did with good faith, but up to now, the cardinals and bishops have responded to it with less than good intentions. I am convinced that Cardinal Errázuriz – the former archbishop of the capital city [Santiago] has an enormously bad influence on the pope, because Errázuriz has covered up for things and because he tried to discredit the victims. His successor, Cardinal [Ricardo] Ezzati, only recently has called into question the objectivity of the victims. He is an absolutely insensible man.

When we look back a little, we note that this whole scandal was already in the light of the day in the year 2010. According to an earlier excellent November 2015 report by the German journalist Julius Müller-Meiningen, when Cruz, together with two other abuse victims, had come forth into the public with their grave accusations against Karadima. One year later, the Vatican suspended Karadima from his office. As Müller-Meiningen, already in 2015, stated, this case “puts also Pope Francis into a dubious light. Cruz […] claims that Pope Francis is on the side of those who cover things up, in spite of contrary confessions.” When the pope then appointed Juan Barros as the bishop of Osorno, Cruz and the other two victims – José Andrés Murillo and James Hamilton – who all gave testimony that Barros had witnessed the abuse crimes “felt wounded by the pope,” especially after he called the accusations “stupidities” and “pushed by the left.”

In this report, Müller-Meiningen also speaks about the fact that Pete Saunders, at the time one of the members of the abuse commission in the Vatican, had proposed that, at the next commission meeting in February of 2015, this topic should be brought up, to include the demeaning words of the pope himself about the abuse victims. (This example shows, once more, that the pope had previous occasions to look more deeply into the Barros scandal.) Saunders then called the pope’s words “terrible.” Here, Saunders referred to two Chilean cardinals – Errázuriz and Ezzati – “who are in close contact with Francis and who play a key role in the Barros scandal,” in Müller-Meiningen’s words. The three victims who had together approached the Diocese of Santiago legally, asking for some restitution for the past abuse, have included in their appeal both the former and the current archbishop of Santiago, Errázuriz and Ezzati. Errázuriz had been the archbishop of Santiago from 1998 until 2010.

In September of 2015, according to Müller-Meiningen, a set of e-mails was published in which Errázuriz insulted Cruz and called him a “snake.” (See here one report on this event.) The German journalist continues, saying that “both prelates made use of their influence in the Vatican in order to stop Cruz from being named” as a member of the Vatican’s abuse commission. The publications of the set of e-mails led to an apology addressed to Cruz, coming from the president of the abuse commission, Cardinal Sean O’Malley. “However,” says Müller-Meiningen, “Francis had already been giving high honors to both Chilean bishops.” Errázuriz – with whom then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio had worked together in 2007 at the Brazilian Aparecida Fifth Latin American Episcopal Conference – “was later called in 2013 by Francisto be in the Council of then-Eight Cardinals, and Ezzati himself, a protegée of Errázuriz, was named a cardinal by Francis in 2014.”

As Cruz then said: “For us, these nominations were like a kick in the face from the pope in person.” Errázuriz knew about the accusations against Karadima since 2003, but only reacted when the Vatican itself started its own investigation, according to ller-Meiningen. “Also Ezzati is said to have covered up for those abusers from his clergy, Cruz claims.” Cruz says, as quoted by the journalist: “The pope continues to stand on the side of the abusers and of those who cover up for them.”

As some colleagues of mine in Europe have observed, it seems that Pope Francis is putting his loyalities toward his friends over the common good of the Church, and certainly above the greater good of the abuse victims.

In light of these truly piercing and painful reports, let us thus consider what our colleague in Rome, Marco Tosatti, has to say about the matter. In a 10 March post on his own blog, Stilum Curiae, he speaks about what all of Francis’ friends have in common. About the above-mentioned letter written by Cardinal Errazuriz, Tosatti comments, as follows (translation courtesy of Giuseppe Pellegrino):

The Chilean Cardinal Javier Errázuriz Ossa wrote a letter to the Latin American bishops, to explain that Francis’ visit to Chile was not a flop but was “highly positive.” He did not accept any responsibility for the scandal of the priest-abuser Karadima, or for Bishop Barros, named bishop of Osorno by the Pope despite the protests and accusations of those who had been abused. And all this was notwithstanding the fact that the ex-archbishop of Santiago had neglected the case and declared that he did not believe the victims. Errázuriz in his letter accused the victims of seeking to profit from the protest and declared the accusations to be calumnies, made with the purpose of bringing a civil lawsuit against the diocese of Santiago. “Errázuriz is seeking to confuse things and to create a distraction to avoid his responsibility for the cover-up and for the poor management of the Chilean church which led to the disaster in which we find ourselves. The problem is not money,” said Juan Carols Cruz, one of the victims, in an interview with the AP [Associated Press].

Tosatti here makes a good summary and description of the modus operandi of Cardinal Errázuriz. He then asks what this whole matter also this has to do with Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia and his own recent scandalous defense of the British decision to kill yet another seriously ill baby in England. He says:

Everything. Because Errázuriz is one of the great friends and counselors of the Pope; that is to say, just as Cardinal Mahony, ex-archbishop of Los Angeles, had to resign because of his poor management of abuse cases; just like Cardinal Danneels of Malines-Brussels, who was swept away by covering up an abusive bishop; just like Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, against whom there was an investigation, to be opened because of the lay people who denounced him to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for his poor management of abuse cases – on the outcome of which, and how it was then closed, it would be interesting, if the ex-Prefect of the Congregation [for the Doctrine of the Faith], Cardinal Gerhard Müller, himself would speak.

And what do all these cardinals have in common? Tosatti asks and responds:

Now the one thing that all of these persons have in common is that they are counselors and [papal] electors – at the time of the conclave – who are in the inner circle of the Pope, who seems to have a predilection for people with a “past.”

Here, Tosatti means “a past that is not exactly glorious.” Here, he mentions Monsignor Ricca, “named the head prelate of the IOR, or like Monsignor Paglia, archbishop of Terni, where he will be remembered, apart from the erotic fresco and the homosexual man with a zucchetto on his head, for the disastrous situation he left behind there, from which he was later liberated by a rapid and timely recall to work back inside the Vatican at St. Callisto.” Tosatti concludes his incisive post – and we shall also end with his words:

And the list could continue, and it is definitely not short. The Pope boasts of having a good memory, and of always having had it. Surely in the management of a government people with a past present advantages, at least of gratitude, towards a sovereign so magnanimous. But they do not always give guarantees of being adequate for the task to which they are called. Blind fidelity and competence are not synonymous. On the contrary.

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