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EDITORIAL: Abuse survivors deserve continued support



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Francis' prayers are empty without the proper actions to back them up.

In 2010, Father Fernando Karadima was publicly accused of the sexual assault of many teenage boys starting as far back as the 1980s in Santiago, Chile. The Vatican found him guilty in 2011 and sentenced him to a lifetime of “penance and prayer.” He never faced any criminal prosecution. 

One of these accusers, Juan Carlos Cruz, said Bishop Juan Barros was present when Cruz was being molested, but did nothing to stop the abuse and subsequent cover-up. Francis appointed Barros bishop in 2015, which was met with mass protest in Chile. 

During a recent visit to Chile, Francis stated the accusations against Barros are slander and that there is no definitive proof against him. This is incredibly insensitive to the abuse survivors in Chile.

It is true Francis does not have a legal burden to prove the bishop’s innocence, but his words were both harmful and hypocritical toward the abuse survivors in Chile. In the same visit,  Francis met personally with many sexual abuse victims and expressed his “pain and shame” over the scandal. He asked the survivors for his forgiveness.

This response was not enough for activists that gathered in Santiago during a conference that launched an organization called Ending Clerical Abuse. 

Activist and survivor Juan Carlos Cruz told the BBC a mere apology "is not sufficient for a survivor.”  

“What we want is for the Pope to take action. There are concrete things that he can do, like removing priests who have been accused and sentenced by the Chilean justice system or canon law and bishops" involved in the cover-ups, Cruz continued. 

Francis’ words will do nothing to heal the community of survivors of Chile or the problem of clerical sexual abuse as a whole. Defending Barros implies that not only does Francis not believe or respect the victims he spoke to, but he supports their abusers over them and will do nothing to stop the problem.

Francis implies the situation would be different if he had what he considers to be concrete evidence, saying “the day someone brings me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk.”

Unfortunately, it appears Francis does not believe multiple testimonials count as real evidence of abuse. 

“As if I could have taken a selfie or photo while Karadima abused me and others with Juan Barros standing next to him watching everything," Juan Carlos Cruz tweeted

“These people are absolutely crazy, and @Pontifex (the pope's Twitter handle) is talking about reparation to the victims. Nothing has changed, and his plea for forgiveness is empty.”

Until Francis takes direct action to harshly condemn and remove those who commit or protect clerical sexual abuse, he is complicit in the problem and actively hurting the survivors he claims to be praying for.

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