Pope Francis’ recent South American visit was an attempt to mend the wounds left by a “notorious pedophile,” Rev. Fernando Karadima. Unfortunately, the Pope refused to accept that Bishop Juan Barros may have been complicit in covering up the sexual abuses of Karadima and accused the victims of not providing proof.
Chileans were shocked and angered by the Pope’s remarks, especially since the abuse victims were considered trustworthy enough for the Rev. to be sentenced by The Vatican in 2011. One of Karadima’s more outspoken accusers vented on Twitter with this remark aimed at Pope Francis, “As if I could have taken a selfie or a photo while Karadima abused me and others and Juan Barros stood by watching it all, These people are truly crazy, and the pontiff talks about atonement to the victims. Nothing has changed, and his plea for forgiveness is empty.”
Accusations against Karadima started as early as 2002, when parishioners in Santiago claimed he would “kiss and fondle” them, but a Vatican investigation did not start until 2010, after victims began to go public.
Chileans were outraged when Francis appointed the Karadima protege Barros as bishop of Osorno because the abuse victims have consistently blamed Barros of failing to act on his knowledge of Karadima’s abuse. Barros has denied those allegations, but nevertheless, his appointment caused a riff in the diocese which has seen a 3-year campaign against his appointment.
It was hoped that the Pope’s visit would go far in healing the region, but all of his meetings with the victims and his begging for forgiveness was undone by his remarks to a journalist, “The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I’ll speak,” Francis said. “There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”
These remarks were called a “tremendous error” by a political scientist in Santiago. Especially since the church has only recently begun to acknowledge the error of not believing victims in favor of protecting their own.
The Karadima case has had a significant impact on how the Chileans see the Catholic Church, and the Pope’s refusal to believe victims about Barros’ involvement is not likely to renew their trust.