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Sunday, June 3, 2018

FrancisGate: What Did the Pope Know and When Did He Know It?

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FrancisGate: What Did the Pope Know and When Did He Know It?

Every clerical coverup needs an enforcer who staunchly defends the accused, threatens the victims, shuts down debate, and intimidates anyone dares to speaks out.

Francis personally assumed the enforcer role in the Bishop Barros coverup.

For the last 3 years, the world watched Francis, the papal bully, as he scolded, demeaned, stonewalled, deceived, and lashed out at anyone who criticized his appointment of Chilean Bishop Juan Barros.

Yes, Francis, and only Francis, is responsible for serving up his specially-prepared dish of ‘hagan lio’, Make a Mess.

What a mess he made of the Catholic Church in Chile!

His negligent culpability in this coverup is reinforced by evidence of what Francis knew, and when he knew it.

His very own public words and actions reveal Francis as the mastermind who orchestrated this appointment and its lingering coverup.

Why would Francis Name Barros?

Bishop Barros was selected by Pope Francis in January 2015 to head the Osorno diocese despite allegations of Barros’s complicity in the crimes of his former mentor, Rev. Fernando Karadima. Karadima was the Chilean charismatic and popular priest, who was found guilty by the Vatican in 2011 of sexual abuse of minors. Three victims attest that Barros witnessed Karadima’s abuse of them, and as secretary to the Santiago archbishop in the early 1980s, Barros allegedly destroyed a letter from parishioners complaining of Karadima's misconduct.

For three long years, Francis fended off all protests against Bishop Juan Barros, in a global coverup by the Vicar of Christ. Francis ripped into the victims calling them “slanderers” calling Chileans “stupid” for protesting Barros and “judging a bishop without any proof.” Francis vociferously shut down criticism, discussion, and debate about his Barros appointment. This baffling and confounding papal appointment seems very personal to Francis. No one was going to change Francis’ mind.

The Pope’s Fighting Words

Santiago, Chile, Jan. 19, 2018: Francis offered his strongest condemnation of the Karadima sex abuse victims while on his papal trip to Chile. Responding to a Chilean reporter who asked about the Barros case, Pope Francis said, “The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I’ll speak. There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”

Oh, yes, perfectly clear, Pope Francis.

Francis claimed that he never heard from any of Barros’ victims, and wrongly asserted that the victims never gave evidence in court:

But I have not heard from any victim of Barros. They did not come, they did not show themselves, they did not give evidence in court. It's all in the air. It is true that Barros was in Karadima's group of young people.”

On the plane home, confronted by reporters, Francis said: “You, in all good will, tell me that there are victims, but I haven’t seen any, because they haven’t come forward.”

No victims came forward?

With that patently false accusation, the papal stone wall began to crumble after 3 long years with Juan Barros, head of the Diocese of Osorno.

3 Year Stand-off and Papal Coverup

Pope Francis inserted himself front and center into the coverup. Behind the papal curtain, the facts suggest that Francis was fully aware and repeatedly briefed on the facts of this case. Several clerics informed him of the potential damage to the Chilean Catholic Church by the Barros appointment, and the resounding opposition to this dangerous papal selection. Yet Francis persisted in defending Barros.

Francis claims that the evidence was thoroughly investigated by him and he saw no reason not to appoint Barros. If this is true, the judgment of Pope Francis is morally and fatally flawed and his decision making is an imminent danger to children.

Are the last three years of stonewalling for Barros, an example of Francis’ ‘Who am I to judge’ decision making?

Or worse yet, did the Pope actually believe that the Barros’ allegations did not disqualify him from the prestigious spiritual post of bishop?

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Prevalence of Endless Evidence..Ignored

The following timeline demonstrates that Francis received a massive trove of evidence from countless sources, including victims, laity, judicial, and ecclesiastic venues, of Barros’ unsuitability for the position of Bishop.

Francis ignored it all….until a photo emerged and his own papal hide was in jeopardy.

For three years, despite a prodigious and sustained effort by the victims, the Chilean Episcopacy, Chilean laity, clerics, and Chilean authorities to persuade Francis to revoke the appointment, he was curiously and conspicuously intransigent in his support and defense of Juan Barros.

Evidence in Support of the Victims

*In Chile in 2011, Judge Jessica Gonzalez heard the sworn evidence and testimony of the three Karadima victims and determined that they were “truthful and reliable.”

*2011- The Vatican held a canonical trial based on the Karadima sexual abuse allegations. At the Vatican trial the Karadima victims gave detailed testimony about the sexual abuse by Fr. Karadima and referred to Barros’ complicity in the abuse. Based on testimony from Cruz and other former members of the parish, the Vatican in 2011 removed the 80 year old Fr. Karadima from ministry and sentenced him to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” for his crimes.

Both the Chilean and Vatican prosecutors found the testimony of the victims to be credible and probative. Yet Francis took the word of Barros, who denies all the allegations.

Jan. 10, 2015: Pope Francis names Juan Barros as bishop of Osorno, Chile.

Smoking Gun #1

January 31, 2015- An AP exclusive story disclosed that a leaked confidential letter from Pope Francis was sent to the Chilean Bishops’ Conference in January 2015. The papal letter reveals the behind-the-scenes intrigue and maneuvering by the Pope and undermines his public statements about the advisability of the Barros appointment. In the letter, Francis references receipt of the Chilean Bishops' Conference's correspondence of January 23, 2015, and thanks them for their “frank and open” email wherein they laid out their strong objections to the Barros episcopal appointment to the Diocese of Osorno.

His confidential letter also references a plan in late 2014, wherein the Chilean Papal Nuncio asked Barros (and two other Karadima-linked bishops) to resign, take a year sabbatical, and then assume new bishop responsibilities. Barros was not to mention the other two bishops in his resignation letter, but did so, and accordingly the plan fell apart.

Significance of this correspondence: We now know that Pope Francis was very aware of the Barros/Karadima controversy as early as 2014. Francis knew of the strong and vocal condemnation of his Barros Osorno appointment by the Chilean Bishops' Conference. The Chilean bishops understood and communicated the ecumenical disaster which would befall the Church by this papal appointment.

The coverup began as early as 2014, when Francis was put on notice that Bishop Juan Barros was radioactive, highly problematic, and a persona-non-grata based on massive news coverage of the Karadima trial and victims’ testimony about the Barros coverup and improper conduct.

Why wasn’t Francis swayed by the allegations surrounding Barros, when many Chilean bishops and clerics were? Why did he insist on appointing Barros?

Was this papal crony clericalism?

Was his stance an example of the dictator Pope who tyrannically manages the Vatican and protects his pals at the expense of victims of clerical sex abuse?

Smoking Gun #2

February 3, 2015: Mr. Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim, delivered a 5 page formal complaint to Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, the Chilean papal nuncio, accusing Bishop Barros of covering up Father Karadima’s abuses, threatening seminarians if they spoke out about them and, while Barros served as secretary to Cardinal Juan Francisco Fresno, he destroyed letters reporting the abuses. In the letter to Scapolo, Cruz described in brutal detail his allegations against Barros, which are replete with instances of coverup, destruction of evidence and voyeurism. Cruz alleged the abuse as follows:

“When we were in Karadima’s bedroom, Juan Barros saw how he touched us and made us kiss him,” said Mr. Cruz, referring to himself and other young victims. “He witnessed all of that countless times. And he has covered it all up.”

Smoking Gun #3

Feb. 2015: In February, more than 50 priests and deacons of the Osorno Diocese signed a letter to Archbishop Scapolo, along with 1000 lay people asking the pope to reverse his decision. “We don’t feel embraced, and much less understood, by our church hierarchy,” they said. “The spiritual union of our church has been damaged.”

In it, they say that the mere fact of having been one of Karadima’s closest collaborators and having remained quiet while the abuses were taking place makes Barros a “non-credible person.” The letter articulated the serious allegation of Barros’ failure to report Karadima’s abuse to authorities.

Smoking Gun #4

March 6, 2015: Pope Francis meets with the Chilean Archbishop of Concepción, Archbishop Fernando Chomalí, in Rome on March 6. According to Archbishop Chomali, “I spoke to [Francis] at length about the consequences the appointment has had in Osorno and the country... [Pope Francis] with firmness and a lot of conviction, told me that he had analyzed all the antecedents and that there was no objective reason for Barros not to assume the diocese.. He (Pope Francis) was very well-informed of the letters he had received through different channels"

The Pope told Chomali that he had also talked to Bishop Barros. In an interview, Chomalí indicated that the pope was not moved by evidence that Barros concealed Karadima's crimes. "The pope told me he had analyzed the situation in detail and found no reason to reverse his decision," Chomalí said.

There can little doubt that Pope Francis was informed of the facts by the respected Chilean Archbishop Chomali, including the detailed testimony of the victims and the serious consequences for the Catholic Church in Chile if he proceeded with his Barros Appointment.

Ironically, the stance displayed by Francis is described in the U.S. National Report on the Crisis in the Catholic Church (2004) as a “cause of cooperation of evil when leaders of the flock fail in their duty to protect the most vulnerable among us from predators...

Some bishops and other Church leaders placed the interests of the accused priests above those of the victims and too often declined to hear from victims directly, relying instead on denials and assurances from those accused of abuse.” 

Smoking Gun #5

April 12, 2015: Four members of the pope's Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors fly to Rome to meet with Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Francis' top adviser, to raise concerns about Barros' suitability to run a diocese. The commissioners refer to the victims’ abuse testimony that Barros witnessed and ignored their abuse. Commissioner Marie Collins hands Cruz's letter to O'Malley, who would go on to tell Collins and Cruz he delivered it to the pope and relayed their concerns. A photo was taken of the envelope given to Cardinal O’Malley to document and memorialize the meeting.

omalley letterAP Photo

May 15, 2015: Pope is filmed in St. Peter's Square telling the spokesman for the Chilean bishops' conference that the Chilean church had become too politicized and the opposition to Barros was coming from "leftists." Francis says: "Osorno suffers, yes, from foolishness, because they don't open their heart to what God says and they let themselves guided by the nonsense all those people say."

Smoking Gun #6

January 2018: During the Papal trip to Chile Francis was questioned by an AP reporter about the Barros scandal, the pope said: “You, in all good will, tell me that there are victims, but I haven’t seen any, because they haven’t come forward.”

The transcript of the press conference is very revealing and appears on the Vatican website. Francis makes a long, rambling but woeful attempt to justify his inaction on Barros, sounding more like a lawyer, than the ultimate ecclesial protector of children.

Here’s an example of his circular legalistic arguments:

Now, the case of Bishop Barros.  It is a case where I called for an examination, an investigation, which was thorough.  Really, there is no evidence – I use the word “evidence”, because later I want to talk about “proof” – there is no evidence of guilt, nor does it appear that there will be any, because there is consistency on the other side. So it’s on the basis of this lack of evidence that I am waiting for some evidence to make me change my position; otherwise I apply the basic rule of every court of law: nemo malus nisi probetur, no one is guilty until proven otherwise. Then there is the word “proof”, which I think is what got me in hot water.”

Since 2010 and for the last 8 years, while the Karadima scandal broke wide open, the Chilean and global press have covered the multiple trials and sworn court testimony of the victims alleging misconduct by Bishop Barros. Yet, Francis statement that the victims have not come forward is simply preposterous.

Smoking Gun #7

Feb. 5, 2018: In an exclusive AP reveals the evidence and the contents of Cruz’s April 2015 letter, which contradict the pope's claim about no victims coming forward. The Cruz letter is documented in a photo as it is given to Cardinal O’Malley who acknowledged giving it to Pope Francis in April of 2015.

Cruz wrote in that letter: "Holy Father, it's bad enough that we suffered such tremendous pain and anguish from the sexual and psychological abuse, but the terrible mistreatment we received from our pastors is almost worse."

As early as 2014, before the Pope had publicly announced the Barros appointment, Francis knew and conceded that Barros was a problematic appointment. He admitted this in the Jan. 2015 letter to his very own Chilean bishops.

Yet, publicly, Francis scornfully derided anyone who criticized the Barros appointment calling them ‘stupid.' In his public statements, he fiercely repeated that he never was given evidence about Barros, and called the victims’ comments, “calumny.” He also refused to meet with any Karadima victims during his trip to Chile.

All the while, Francis should have known from countless sources that Barros’ involvement with Karadima and the 3 victim allegations made him unfit to spiritually lead a diocese. Francis knew full well that several Bishops, priests, and laity in Chile were opposed to this episcopal appointment because of grave concerns about Barros’ past conduct with Karadima and the victims.

Francis ignored them all, forged ahead with the Barros appointment despite overwhelming allegations of the danger to souls, to children, and to the institution of the Catholic Church in Chile and elsewhere.

One wonders if the Francis Vatican has learned anything about the decades-old clerical predatory sex abuse scandal. Did Francis not get the memo that the innocence and safety of children demands strict enforcement of zero tolerance? Does he not understand that past behavior of clerical abuse and its coverup is illegal, criminal and immoral?

No one, especially the Pope, is immune from responsibility. The troubling conduct of Francis in handling the Barros case strongly suggests tolerance for sexual misbehavior, crony clericalism, and a lengthy and destructive coverup by the self proclaimed Merciful Pope.

Does papal mercy now trump child protection?


Elizabeth Yore is an international child advocate attorney who has investigated clergy sex abuse cases.

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Last modified on Monday, June 4, 2018
Elizabeth Yore

Elizabeth Yore served on the Heartland Institute Delegation that traveled to the Vatican in April 2015 to urge Pope Francis to re-examine his reliance on UN population control proponents who promote climate change.  She is an international child protection attorney who has investigated several cases of clergy sex abuse of children. She served as Special Counsel and Child Advocate to Oprah Winfrey. She is the former General Counsel of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and former General Counsel at National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.