Pope Francis has a black eye from the clergy abuse file.
It was brought to a head in Chile. During his visit there in January, the pope sparked controversy when he pledged his support for Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno diocese, who allegedly witnessed abuse by Rev. Fernando Karadima. He later apologized to the victims and admitted that his choice of words wounded many. He followed this up with a letter of apology April 11, asking “forgiveness of all those I have offended.” He said he hoped to “be able to do it personally in the coming weeks.”
This past weekend he followed this up with private meetings at the Vatican with three clergy abuse survivors from Chile. While the Vatican issued no statements after these private meetings, the survivors did. They appreciated the time and concern Pope Francis showed them.
“I spoke for more than two-and-a-half hours alone with Pope Francis. He listened to me with great respect, affection and closeness, like a father,” Juan Carlos Cruz tweeted April 29 after his meeting with the pope. “We talked about many subjects. Today, I have more hope in the future of our church. Even though the task is enormous.”
Another victim, Jose Andres Murillo, said he spoke with Pope Francis for two hours and that “in a respectful and frank way, I expressed the importance of understanding abuse as an abuse of power, of the need to assume responsibility, of care and not just forgiveness.”
The third victim, James Hamilton, sent two tweets April 28 shortly after his papal meeting, saying it lasted a “little over two hours” and that it was “sincere, welcoming and enormously constructive.” I am “very happy and satisfied,” he said.
Pope Francis plans another followup — a meeting with all the bishops of Chile. He invited them to Rome to discuss the findings of a 2,300-page report from Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, president of a board of review within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Vatican’s chief prosecutor of clerical sex abuse cases was sent to Chile to meet people with information about Barros.
The pope’s black eye appears to be healing. The remedy needs to spread through the rest of the church.