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Pope’s Investigator Into Chilean Abuse Claims Has Strong Track Record, But Raises Questions

In what appears to be an attempt to rectify the biggest misstep of his pontificate, Pope Francis has appointed an investigator with a strong track record to look into sexual abuse allegations that have dogged Bishop Juan Barros, the pope’s controversial pick to lead the diocese of Osorno, Chile. Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta has been selected to go to Chile to investigate new information brought forward by alleged victims of abuse.

Some of the victims of Fr. Fernando Karadima, a Chilean priest removed from active ministry by the Vatican in 2011 and sent to a “life of prayer and penitence”, also allege that his protege, Juan Barros, had knowledge of the abuse, or even observed as it was taking place. The pope’s seemingly callous disregard of these claims has led to strong criticism of the media-darling pontiff by an increasingly hostile international press.

Francis’ combative stance toward Barros’ accusers is not new. It most recently made headlines during the pope’s visit to Chile in January, where he accused victims making allegations against Barros of “calumny,” saying that there “is not one shred of proof against him.” In followup comments, the pope apologized for giving offense, but continued to insist that he could not “condemn” Barros without evidence. Francis had previously expressed his contempt for the same accusers in 2015 when he said that “The Osorno community is suffering because it’s dumb,” and that they had let their heads “be filled with what politicians say, judging a bishop without any proof.”

Archbishop Scicluna, who will work to determine if there is any evidence to support the claims against Barros, worked as the promoter of justice for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) for the better part of two decades before being appointed by Pope Francis in 2015 to head up a CDF team that handles appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse. He is credited for helping to uncover evidence of sexual abuse by Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, who was discovered to have abused seminarians, and also to have fathered multiple children while living a double life. Maciel became symbolic of the larger sex abuse crisis in the Church, bringing shame and scandal on what was once considered one of the most promising and fastest-growing orders in the Church.

But when it comes to Scicluna’s objectivity in a case the pope has taken such a personal interest in, certain questions are raised about whether the Maltese Archbishop will pursue an outcome not favored by the pope.

Although known before the present pontificate as being in the mold of Joseph Ratzinger, Scicluna played a pivotal role in the Amoris Laetitia controversy. As Archbishop of Malta, he issued some of the most permissive guidelines on sacraments for the divorced and remarried of any diocese in the world. In his analysis of the guidelines for OnePeterFive, Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S., wrote:

Malta has been famous as a bastion of fervent and orthodox Catholicism almost since St. Paul evangelized it in the first century. No more. For in one fell swoop, Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta and Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo have avoided superficial flesh wounds and darted straight in for the jugular. They do admittedly try to disguise their death-blow with the standard bland rhetoric about the need for a sincere search for God’s will, serious prayerful discernment, “humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching”, etc. But their bottom line is that in Malta there will now be no objective and enforceable limits whatsoever on the right of (non-continent) divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the Holy Eucharist. Priest confessors are being told they may no longer be deciders in such matters, only ‘accompaniers’; for access to the sacraments for all persons in these illicit unions will ultimately depend entirely on their own subjective decision of “conscience”.

Pope Francis went on to praise those guidelines, thanking Malta’s two bishops for them in a letter last April after they were published in L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper. Archbishop Scicluna is alleged to have told a meeting of Maltese priests in February, 2017, that he had “no choice” in signing the guidelines, because his conscience would not allow him to go against the wishes of the pope. Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register also reported at the time that Scicluna confirmed he told seminarians in his country that if any of them did not agree with Pope Francis, they were free to leave.

Adding a twist to the speculation, sources in Malta have told OnePeterFive that in the wake of the high-profile murder of popular blogger and political corruption watchdog Daphne Caruana Galizia in a car bombing last October, Archbishop Scicluna has become a de facto moral leader whom many in Malta — believers and unbelievers alike — look to for guidance. Scicluna delivered the homily at Galizia’s funeral last November, during which he struck a defiant note:

We still do not know who killed Daphne. Whoever took part, in one way or another, in Daphne’s murder, I have this to tell you: However hard you try to evade from the justice of men, you will never escape from the justice of God. Repent before it is too late.

To you journalists, Daphne’s colleagues, I repeat what I have already told you: do not be afraid. I encourage you never to grow weary in your mission to be the eyes, the ears, and the mouth of the people. Do this without fear and with full respect of the truth. Dear journalists, we need you. We need people in your profession who are unshackled, who are free, intelligent, inquisitive, honest, serene, safe and protected.

One Catholic in Malta who spoke with OnePeterFive said that they had the impression that Scicluna had undergone a change since the events following Galizia’s death, and that he seemed more likely to take an unpopular stand.

So which Scicluna will go to Chile? The accomplished investigator of clerical abuse and champion of those fighting corruption, or the Archbishop who can’t say no to the pope?

Whatever the outcome, the pope has little to lose. Either an expert clears Barros of any wrongdoing, confirming belief that his appointed bishop is innocent, or Barros is found guilty, and Francis gets credit for taking action after his earlier mistakes. For Scicluna, however, discovering the truth of a case that has rocked the Chilean church for years could be a first step on a path to redemption.

27 thoughts on “Pope’s Investigator Into Chilean Abuse Claims Has Strong Track Record, But Raises Questions”

  1. So heartbreaking to see Cardinal Scicluna stating “his conscience wouldn’t allow him to go against the wishes of the pope”,yet he is betraying and rejecting Jesus’s Teachings! Will God tell this soul at judgment day “come faithful servant……..

  2. “Whatever the outcome, the pope has little to lose.”

    I disagree, though I think the Pope is absolutely doing the right thing {at least on the surface…hopefully this investigation will be conducted in good faith.} Either way, this is going to be interesting.

    If Barros is “proven” to be an abuser, the Pope looks immensely stupid for popping off as he did. If Barros is exonerated, the Pope looks like a coverer-upper who only begrudgingly ordered the investigation after he got called out.

    Either way it is a losing proposition for the Pope.

    • It is indeed a losing proposition. He dug this hole for himself, and it looks as though further excavation could be underway. Those who suffered evils at the hands, (and another appendage) of Karadima, and who maintain that on occasions, Barros was even present while they were being violated by that despicable man will not be placated by anything short of a full disclosure of the truth. Maybe Francis is digging this hole because he hopes he can bury the truth in it. If that’s the case, it could be a sign of his growing desperation.

    • I stand by my conviction that he’s already near rock bottom on public perception here. He has nowhere to go but up, and he’s still pushing enough of a progressive agenda that the media will be only to eager to embrace him again once he’s checked the right boxes.

      After all, none of them are holding him accountable for Danneels or Inzoli, even now.

      • I well understand your pessimism, Steve, but I pray that you are mistaken. I know it is the sole purpose of the media to turn people who are not without intelligence into half-wits who are utterly incapable of any kind of critical thought. But I suspect that the chips are now beginning to fall too quickly to restore him to his former ‘glory’ with more than half the world fawning after him. Much of the initial fairy tale gloss and glitter has gone, and it can never be restored. I’m sure there must be many in Latin America, not just in Chile but in his native Argentina and elsewhere throughout the continent who will have the collective will to frustrate the process. And if his hold on complete power and control looks like it’s becoming rather shaky, his many partners-in-crime and the nauseating sycophants might start to feel a little insecure.

      • The thing I wonder about is this; Once he gets linked to “abuse” {which looks more and more like the direction this pontificate is headed}, will all those Daneels and Inzolis then be placed at his feet as well?

        Meaning, they are ignored now, but in the event the leftist media wants to ditch him, will they then go back and “retroactively” blame him for association with all the scum of his “past”?

        I think that is possible.

        And it bodes very badly for US as Catholics.

        Whether we like it or not, he is our representative to the world. If the abuse issue rises up in his pontificate we will…once again…be linked as a religion to the scourge of sex abuse. ALL the advances of the past made on this score will be forgotten.

        I am not kidding when I say we MUST have a new Inquisition. The scum need to be rooted out WHATEVER THE COST and Pope or Priest or Bishop, condemned “mercilessly” for their crimes and handed over to civil authorities when possible or creatively mauled in civil court WITH THE BLESSING OF EVERY MAN-JACK CATHOLIC AMONG US.

    • For Pope Francis to even risk the outrage that the Barros appointment made is at best clueless. There aren’t enough priests in Chile to make one without any questions on his back a bishop? What was the purpose? The real question here is why the Pope persisted in this ludicrous course. It was plain stupid. Even if Barros was worthy of canonization it was plain stupid. For Barros’ own good it would have been best to withdraw him from this uproar.
      What makes Pope Francis persistently pursue the contrarian course? What is wrong with this man?
      Without condescension or hyperbole, I am convinced this man has a serious emotional/ personality/cognitive/developmental disorder. He is not suited for religious life, the priesthood let alone an episcopal appointment.
      It is not a question if he is a heretic. Is he sane?

  3. An effective political tactic for one under political fire is to call for an investigation when one is not necessary.

    Such a tactic is useful to silence critics and move the problem beyond the sight of public scrutiny.

    Besides, investigations can drag on and on, can’t they? (No, of course “drag” was not intended as an internal pun).

    I can’t say anything right now because the matter is under investigation

  4. Scicluna must be faithful to the teachings of God and Jesus which rules above all. He must demand the truth in this situation at all costs and not be afraid of what this truth will be. Everything else is dust and vanity. He must put aside any earthly desires to anyone including the pope and do what our faith mandates, truth and justice. He must not be concerned in the least about money, prestige, positions, who the person is or their station in this world. Anything less and evil will win again.

  5. Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta…ah, yes, Malta… The first, after Germany of course, to ride the Amoris Laetitia ship to … wherever.
    Better late than never, I guess.
    By the way, what ever happened to Maradiaga? That fiasco got swept under rug more quickly than I expected.

    • If the gruesome Maradiaga was sent on sabbatical, as others speculate…what about exile to Medjugorje? Maradiaga was always a great fan of that disgusting fraud. He had an outsize replica of the fake shrine built in Honduras.

      • don’t judge Medugorje when you have no personnal experience of it. Judging Med. as a “disgusting fraud” might someday come back to bite you. Sr. Lucia was reported to conferm that Medugorje was authentic and she also said that it was the continuation of Fatima. You don’t have the authority to make this judgement as you didn’t have the judgement on Fatima.

        • And Padre Pio thought the now discredited Garabandal was the real deal. So what? We have just as much the right to judge Medju for the fraud it clearly is, as you have to judge it authentic.

          • She has no right to judge it as authentic, because the bishop, who actually has that authority, has deemed it to be false. Short of the Pope, there is no one who can challenge that decision. Akita is the continuation of Fatima, not Medijourie

        • I have personal experience of Medjugorje. I went there for a week in 1996, before the fraud had swollen to its present size. It is as fake as a three dollar note.

          First of all, it was the plainly unhinged pilgrims who came on the trip with me, Then it was the lavish lifestyle and beautiful houses of the “visionaries” – definitely no question of dying penniless in a convent, as per St Bernadette. Then it was some of the vile local Franciscans who are the prime movers behind the fraud. Especially the Franciscan who addressed my group and explained about all the people responsible for the recent carnage in former Yugoslavia, especially “the merchants”, i.e. the Jews.

          Check out E Michael Jones’ book, “The Medjugorje Deception”. I spoke the Dr Jones around 1999 before I bought his book. We discussed my experiences at Medj; he told that he had spoken to Cardinal Ratzinger and the Vatican had already known for years that it was a fraud. Pity that the Vatican had not vigorously backed up the local bishop, who had long before made the definitive judgement according to Canon Law – the visions are totally phoney. As Dr Jones points out, the bishop had the huge advantage of being able to speak directly to the visionaries in their own language. But one lone bishop is powerless against the strength of massive money. The monster is now so huge (140 hotels in a once poor village) that it will not be strangled.

          • Hi William, Don’t forget the stained glass window in the church picturing the alleged seers. To me that in itself is an insult to anyone that knows the faith.

  6. This is good optics for the Vatican. But after what I’ve seen with the FBI investigations here in the United States I am very skeptical. Bishop Juan Barros could be the equivalent of James Comey. Has come to a conclusion before the investigation? I seriously hope I am wrong.

  7. Looking at Pope Francis’s record on abusers and abuser protectors:

    1) Monsignor Ricca, user of underage prostitute, promoted to Papal household.

    2) Cardinal Danneels, member of St Gallen Mafia, bosom crony of PF:

    3) Archbishop Paglia, sponsor of paedo themed mural in his cathedral, promoted to Vatican post dealing with the family!!

    4) Cardinal Maradiaga, temporarily invisible after allegations about money, but for a long time PF’s right hand man. Claimed that the paedo scandal was exaggerated by the Jewish-controlled media.

    5) Cardinal Murphy O’Connor, paedo protector, long time crony of PF, member of St Gallen Mafia:

    6) Father Inzoli, pardoned by PF after being defrocked for the usual offences, then defrocked a second time! Hey, it was The Year of Mercy….

    7) PF has been a ceaseless advocate of unlimited Muslim migration to Europe. Not a word from him about the resulting mass abuse of young men and women.

    In short, I am not holding my breath for any vigorous investigation or disciplinary action on anything paedo related. Unless, of course, it can be spun as good publicity.

  8. I think we all have a tendency to extrapolate what wish to see, out of any situation.
    We need to recognize several factors regarding this story.
    A) When we deal with clergy sexual abuse, the scandals in their great majority are instrumentalized and weaponized, from the outside to hurt the church as an institution.
    ( Guam being a welcome departure from that trend)
    B) In this case in Chile, the Church is definitely under siege. Yet the Archbishop was cleared from coverup charges in civil court.
    This is what Pope Francis was alluding to, albeit in an odd manner, when he addressed it.
    I think we can all agree that Francis more often than not is his own worse ennemy, by talking too fast and in a brutish way
    C) Surprise! Some Cardinals are playing politics with that football.
    O’Malley who is supposedly in charge of the sexual abuse dossier, is coming to the defense of the victims. (Great PR coup)
    In fact O’Malley has been covering up for many sexual abusers (specially from the NCW) and has used his position to advance a very nefarious agenda on the subject.
    D) why the Bishop of Malta? It is all about who he is carrying the water for.
    A close relation of Filoni and O’Malley, he watches over one of the most divided archdiocese in the Catholic world.
    Guess who is pushing for great expansion in Chile?…. The same people that control Malta.
    They hate that Francis put one of his friend in charge rather than their candidate
    Follow the money…it all leads to a Catholic ” movement ” with a headquarter on the sea of Galilee.
    Guess who the chairman of that board is?…..Yep ! Good ole Cardinal Sean

  9. Even if Msgr. Scicluna’s investigation proves Msgr. Juan Barros had knowledge of the abuse, or even observed as it was taking place (as accuser Mr. Juan Carlos Cruz allegue), I think he should not be declared guilty but also a Fr. Karadima’s victim due to his both power and conscience abuse in regard to his protegés, especially the closest as current Bishop Barros was. He should be considered a victim but in a different way as


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