At issue, is the papal selection of a bishop with a long and sordid history of covering up clergy sex abuse. Like all political intrigue, the initial wrongdoing is overshadowed by subsequent nefarious behavior, played out in the Vatican corridors.
The improbable twists and turns of this story read like the Vatican thriller, Angels and Demons, with powerful Cardinals and Bishops testifying in court, a secret recording of the Pope in an unguarded and revealing rant, the hacking of explosive emails between two plotting prominent prelates, topped off with an unhealthy dose of illicit sex and serial sex exploitation of minors by a powerful priest.
Weaving through this shocking modern saga of ecclesial intrigue and back door papal politics are the footprints of the Shoes of the Fisherman, who emerges not as the merciful pontiff, but rather as a mudslinging, and churlish political operative. Francis exposes himself as the ecclesial power broker, who defers to his brother cardinals, rather than ‘mercifully accompanying’ the victims of clergy abuse and derides the simple Osorno laity for demanding that the Church get rid of predators.
The story begins with the Catholics of Osorno on their knees praying for a papal reversal. Hopeful that their prayerful petitions would be answered, Osorno Catholics held prayer vigils and candlelight processions, wrote petitions to Pope Francis, imploring him to withdraw the Barros appointment.
However, on March 21, 2015, Bishop Juan Barros was installed as Bishop of Osorno, and, the people angrily exploded in a furious melee and demonstration at the Cathedral of San Mateo.
This eruption was heard around the Catholic world, yet ignored in Vatican City.
The Protest at the Cathedral
It’s not often that your average Mass-going, rosary-praying, devout Catholics storm a Cathedral. The faithful Catholics of Osorno took matters into their own hands. They desperately wanted to prevent Bishop Barros, who was identified by abuse victims, as a predator protector, from overseeing the diocese as their spiritual leader. With no other option, thousands of Catholics, dressed in black, stormed the Cathedral San Mateo during Barros’ installation ceremony. Despite the protest, the ceremony went forward and Barros was installed as Bishop of Osorno.
The Scandal that shook Chile
Since 2010, when the news broke about the clerical sex scandal, the Chileans have been inundated with the gruesome and sordid revelations of the well-known Fr. Fernando Karadima and his shocking sex abuse scandal and hierarchal cover-up. For five years, the country watched in horror as the people, survivors and the judiciary, learned the breadth and depth of the Church scandal. Most shocking for the Chileans was the level of complicity and cover-ups involving many prominent clerics who were named by victims as concealing Karadima’s abuse, including Bishop Barros.
Against this appalling backdrop, Pope Francis stunned Chileans by naming one of the worst protectors of Karadima, Bishop Juan Barros to head the Diocese of Osorno. A month later, over 1300 Catholics in Osorno, along with 30 diocesan priests, and 120 members of the Chilean Parliament sent a letter to Pope Francis urging him to rescind the appointment of Bishop Barros which was scheduled for March 21, 2015. The letter was given to Pope Francis, yet the appointment was not rescinded by Francis. As the Osorno Catholics would soon learn, Church internal politics trumps the will of the people in the pews.
The Victims Speak Out against Karadima
In 2010, three of the survivor victims—James Hamilton, Fernando Batlle, and Juan Carlos Cruz—revealed that Fr. Karadima sexually abused them at the rectory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Santiago de Chile in the early 1980s. At the time of the abuse, they were 17 years old. The media uproar over the disclosures forced Chilean Cardinal Errázuriz to send a 700-page dossier on Karadima to the Vatican Congregation for the Defense of the Faith (CDF).
After an investigation of the charges, the CDF during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, found Karadima to have sexually abused minors in Chile and, because of his advanced age of 80, ordered him to retire to “a life of prayer and penitence.”
Cruz and four other men testified at the criminal proceedings against Karadima, but the case was dismissed on statute of limitations grounds. However, on appeal, Judge Jessica Gonzalez delivered a damaging and indicting 84-page report on Fr. Karadima, finding that he had groomed and manipulated his victims. During the Gonzalez inquiry, Cardinals Ezzati, and Errázuriz testified. The Judge criticized Errázuriz for not acting on the allegations for years.
Judge Gonzalez found that Karadima used “moral violence” on those under his power. In the report, the Judge described in graphic detail the accounts of sexual abuse by Karadima. The judge determined that the will of one of the victims, James Hamilton, "was annulled, crushed or subjugated by the authority exerted by the offender without any limits, making the victim resign himself to the abuses."
Judge Gonzalez ruled that allegations of molestation against the prominent priest were “truthful and reliable.” After the Gonzalez report, Cardinal Francisco Errázuriz, then archbishop emeritus of Santiago, publicly apologized for not believing the victims’ accusations made in 2003 against Karadima.
However, two years later Pope Francis would reward Errázuriz with a highly prestigious Vatican post.
The Karadima abuse victims are now grown men. They have repeatedly told their traumatic abuse stories and disclosed the sordid details of their sexual abuse to the civil and criminal courts, the media, the public, and the Vatican. Because of the passage of time, the legal system denied them justice, and their abuser still denies the abuse. The lingering pain of the trauma is further exacerbated by the skepticism and apathy of Pope Francis and his closest confidantes toward the disclosures.
LEFT: Fr. Fernando Karadima: The Perp Priest
Sexual predators often exhibit personal magnetism, charm and charisma, which allows them to skillfully groom parents, as well as children. Fr. Fernando Kardima was no exception.
Behind his veneer of popularity, lurked a predatory sexual monster who preyed on minors as far back as the 1980s. He built a retinue of powerful prelates who covered up for him whose concealment allowed countless children to be abused.
While he was preying on children, he was also mentoring many priests, four of whom became Bishops, including Bishop Barros.
Victims Speak Out Against Barros
On March 19, 2015, only two days before the installation ceremony of Bishop Barros, three victims of Fr. Karadima issued the following statement about Fr. Karadima and Bishop Barros. It which reads in part:
“[P]eople in Chile and throughout the world are disappointed because of the appointment of Bishop Juan Barros as head of the Diocese of Osorno, Chile. A man we know and have accused of witnessing abuse, our abuse, and therefore encouraging the perverse dynamics of power.
As survivors of the abuse by Karadima, and the complicity of Bishop Barros, we are accustomed to the blows we have received from the Chilean hierarchy, but never directly from the Holy Father. It is hard to believe that it was the Pope himself who said a few days ago: “families should know that the Church makes great efforts to protect their children, who have the right to address her with confidence, because it is a safe house.” Signed-Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Murillo.
Juan Carlos Cruz, now a 51-year-old Fortune 500 executive, has repeatedly maintained the culpability of Bishop Barros, “This bishop witnessed my own abuse and that of many other boys over a period of 35 years. Barros was there, and he saw it all.” His statement was corroborated by another Karadima victim Dr. James Hamilton, now 49, “I saw how Barros watched it all.” Cruz also disclosed that Karadima and Barros were intimate with each other in front of the victims, “I saw Karadima and Juan Barros kissing and touching each other.”
Papal Cronyism: The Curious and Troubling Appointment of Bishop Barros
(LEFT: Pope Francis with Bishop Barros)
Why the intransigence and persistence by Pope Francis to support a discredited and disreputable bishop? What happened to Francis’ ‘zero tolerance’ for clerical sex abuse and for bishops who cover up?
Bishop Barros was admittedly the protégé of one of the worse clerical sexual predators. Though Barros was never charged for covering up Karadima’s abuse, testimony suggested Barros destroyed incriminating correspondence, and other victims claimed Barros was present during Karadima’s abuse. Though Chilean courts uphold the testimonial evidence. Barros denied the allegations and has never faced a canonical or civil case. Barros continues to maintain that he “never had knowledge of, or could have imagined the serious abuses that this priest committed against the victims.”
Chilean Cardinal Errázuriz-Confidante and Member of Pope’s Cabinet.
During the throes of the Karadima scandal and after the Vatican CDF had found Karadima guilty of sexual abuse of minors, Pope Francis appoints Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, to the Council of Cardinals, the powerful papal advisory cabinet. Pope Francis also gave Errázuriz's successor in Santiago the cardinal's red hat: Ricardo Ezzati Andrello.
The Karadima victims were stunned and enraged over the Pope’s ill advised, insensitive and irresponsible selections. "Why would Pope Francis, who's trying to clean up the church, pick a man like Errázuriz who has done so much harm to so many by his actions?" Cruz asked. "Errázuriz said he did not believe us, and minimized sex abuse cases. Ezzati has done the same thing. Why are men like this confidantes of the pope?"
Vatican Clout and Intrigue: Silencing the Victim
In 2013-14, during the first year of the Francis Papacy, Francis established his much-touted Child Protection Commission. Unbeknownst to Juan Carlos Cruz, the two Chilean cardinals, Ezzati and Errázuriz were working behind the scenes to ensure that Juan Carlos Cruz would never be a member of the commission. They kept close tabs on any potential appointments or invitations to Cruz, and moved quickly to subvert them.
In September 2015, El Mostrador a Chilean website released hacked emails between Cardinals Ezzati and Errázuriz regarding Juan Carlos Cruz:
The Serpent Emails
(LEFT: Papal Pen Pals: Cardinal Ezzati and Cardinal Errázuriz)
Emails between Cardinals Ezzati and Errázuriz (2013-14)
(Below are loosely translated and edited selections of the email exchange):
These emails were exchanged during the Vatican announcement of the new Papal Commission on the Protection of Children in 2013-14. The emails were publicly released by news media in September of 2015, after Barros became Bishop of Osorno.
Below are excerpts of email exchanged by the two Chilean Cardinals. Note the shocking characterization of the abuse victim, Cruz, as a serpent. The Santiago archdiocese confirmed that the authenticity of the emails.
From: Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati (in Chile)
To: Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz( in the Vatican)
Posted on: April 21, 2013, 19:36
This morning I heard a story that did not please me at all. A journalist informed me that Mr. Cruz has been invited by the Anglophone Episcopal Conference to testify about the experience of suffering abuse by Father Karadima and the behavior of the Church of Santiago in relation to it. The meeting which will take place in Rome in the last week of May. I also seek your advice to see who intervene in Rome to prevent this from occurring. We know the intention of Mr. Cruz to you and to the Church of Santiago. I hope we can avoid the lies about the Church. Sorry to end Sunday with this situation.
Francisco Javier Errazuriz replied emphatically, the next day to the above email from Ricardo Ezzati April 21, 2013 email.
From: Francisco Javier Errazuriz
To: Ricardo Ezzati
"The Serpent will not prevail".
From: Francisco Javier Errazuriz
To: Ricardo Ezzati
Posted on April 22, 2013, 7:17
How strange it is on the Good Shepherd Sunday, you also have to deal robbers and wolves! I ask one fact: What are the countries included in this Anglophone Episcopal Conference? I see two paths which should be followed simultaneously:
1. The president of the Episcopal Conference, which we write, warning the serious damage that invitation to Cruz will cause. It is nonsense to invite Carlos Cruz, who will distort the truth. Moreover, he will use the invitation to continue harming the Church.
2. I would have a high authority in Rome intervene, probably, Cardinal Ouellet, but it would be good to send it to Cardinal Bertone, who will take care of the matter, since you have a good relationship with him. The Nuncio could write a letter... if they write letters.
I could prepare a brief report of the complaint of Mr. Carlos Cruz and of the steps that were promptly taken care of in Mr. Cruz’s case. Cheer Up! What we read on Sunday: The Serpent does not prevail.
(In July 2014, the name of Juan Carlos Cruz remained a matter of concern for both Cardinals.)
From: Francisco Javier Errazuriz
To: Ricardo Ezzati
Posted: Tuesday July 1, 2014, 13:04
The head of the Child Protection Commission is the Cardinal O'Malley. He wants the names of all prospective members before appointment by the Holy Father, pass through the nuncios in consultation with the respective Bishops. I handed him the material. He is clearly not to be named. Anyway, I already put the Nuncio on notice on Sunday. Through various channels they have been proposed to JCC (Juan Carlos Cruz) to be appointed to the commission. For now, go a warm greeting, while I implore for you all the gifts of the Spirit of joy, wisdom, strength and peace.
From: Francisco Javier Errazuriz
To: Mons. Ricardo Ezzati
Posted on: July 3, 2014, 15:52
It is already clear that he will not be a member of the commission. We remember with joy and gratitude in our old payments.
From: Ricardo Ezzati
To: Francisco Javier Errazuriz
Posted on Thursday July 3, 2014, 18:06
Cardinal. I wish many blessings, finishing work these days, with the Holy Father. For him my fraternal greetings. Thanks for communication. I hope we can talk to his return.
The Video Seen Round the World
On October 2, 2015 a Chilean news station released the May 6, 2015 recording of Pope Francis defending his appointment of Bishop Juan Barros, despite allegations that the Barros covered up sex abuse by Karadima in the 1980s and 1990s.
Watching his gratuitous and irrational pique, the Barros appointment seems very personal to Francis. What happened to the public image of merciful Papa Francisco? Why is the Pope berating the good Osorno people, who are outraged by the appointment of an allegedly corrupt and immoral man as their bishop? Name calling personifies the trademark of this papacy.
Could it be that Francis doesn’t like his power challenged by the ‘dumb’ laity of Osorno?
Is something else going on?
His crass words are not only beneath the dignity of the office, but are also dead wrong. Does Francis still believe that these concerned Catholics are ‘dumb’ props of leftist politicians even after his closest confidante, Cardinal Errázuriz admitted that he knew about the abuse and covered it up for years?
Pope Francis who famously said, Who am I to judge, apparently is judging the Catholic laity of Osorno, but not his Chilean prelates, who admittedly covered up for a serial child predator for decades.
Pope Francis is calling Catholics ‘dumb’ because they want a good and faithful shepherd for their bishop, not the one, who allegedly watched the abuse and covered it up for 35 years.
Pope Francis is calling Catholics ‘dumb’ because they demand a bishop who allegedly doesn’t lustfully kiss and grope another priest in front of minor abuse victims.
Perhaps, the Osorno Catholics are ‘dumb’ because they haven’t read the book, The Art of Kissing written by Msgr. Victor Manuel Fernandez, the Pope’s exhortation ghostwriter and close collaborator.
“Dumb” Video Provokes Subpoena from Chilean Supreme Court “Loose lips, sink ships” — The ship is the Barque of St. Peter.
In November of 2015, shortly after the release of the “dumb” video, wherein Pope Francis brags that there’s ‘no proof’ of Barros’ complicity, the Chilean Supreme Court took the unusual step to subpoena the Vatican for all documents supporting the Pope’s assertion from St. Peter’s Square:
“Deliver a complete and accurate copy of all the reports that you have concerning the investigation,” the subpoena reads, specifically referring to the Pope’s comments during the Saint Peters incident.
The Vatican refused to comply with the subpoena.
Pope Francis chose sides and chose wrongly. Yet, the brave Chilean Catholics, led by the victims, love their Church and desperately seek leaders who are holy and moral priests that will protect children.
Cruz continues to fight for justice and, indignantly observes that “Osorno is the community of faithful that Pope Francis called ‘dumb’ and ‘leftist’ last year because of their refusal to accept the imposition of a bishop involved in the most emblematic case of child sexual abuse in Latin America.”
The fallout from the Osorno eruption is spreading throughout Latin America. And, no, Papa Francisco, it’s not due to global warming.
The people are not that dumb.
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