Uproar After Pope Calls Chilean Bishop’s Critics ‘Dumb’

by Christine Niles  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 12, 2015   

Abuse victims now questioning Pope Francis' commitment to eradicating priestly sex abuse

You are not signed in as a Premium user; we rely on Premium users to support our news reporting. Sign in or Sign up today!

OSORNO, Chile, October 12, 2015 (ChurchMilitant.com) - There's been an uproar in Chile ever since Pope Francis called critics of a controversial Chilean bishop "dumb."

Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, appointed by Pope Francis early this year to head the diocese of Osorno, Chile, has been dogged by controversy for allegedly covering up sex abuse by priest-friend Francisco Karadima 20 years ago.

Madrid has repeatedly denied the charges, and Pope Francis came to his defense back in May when he called the protestors in Osorno "dumb" and "led by the nose by the leftists who orchestrated all of this."

The video was obtained by a Chilean TV station and aired on October 2, and has since caused public outcry by victims of Fr. Karadima, who are now doubting the Holy Father's commitment to eradicating sex abuse in the clergy.

"Osorno suffers for being stupid because it has not opened its heart to what God says," said the Holy Father in the video.

Pope Francis went on to claim there was insufficient proof to indict Bp. Madrid, even after many years of investigation.

Father Fernando Karadima, one of Chile's most notorious pedophiles, was convicted in 2011 of abusing altar boys two decades ago. The Church sanctioned him to a life of penance and prayer in a convent just outside Santiago. Abuse victims claim Bp. Madrid knew about the abuse at the time and in one case even witnessed it, but shielded the predator priest.

News of Madrid's appointment in January to the Osorno diocese provoked outrage among sex abuse victims as well as thousands of Catholics in Chile, who have held multiple demonstrations against the bishop. In addition to a loud public protest, his installation Mass was met by a boycott of the priests of the diocese — a first in the diocese.

Around 1,300 laymen, 30 priests and almost half of Parliament wrote to the Holy Father earlier this year asking him to replace Madrid. And a panel of advisors commissioned to counsel the Pope on sex abuse of minors have also voiced concerns, claiming the voice of Chileans is being ignored.

On the Pope's video criticisms of the Osorno community, one member of the commission, Marie Collins, has said she is "saddened and discouraged" by his words. Collins was part of a delegation of members from the commission who traveled to Rome to meet with Cdl. Sean O'Malley in April to request that Barros' appointment be rescinded.

In spite of the complaints, the Pope has continued to back his appointment. The Vatican released a statement in March declaring that "the Congregation for Bishops carefully examined the prelate's candidature and did not find objective reasons to preclude the appointment."

The statement failed to allay fears, as the faithful continued to ask for his removal, withholding donations to their parishes and walking out of church wherever the bishop showed up, and even requesting someone other than the bishop perform confirmations. Although no canonical charges have ever been brought against Barros, the faithful claim the baggage he brings disqualifies him from leading the diocese.

The recent release of the Pope's seemingly derogatory comments towards the Osorno community have caused tensions to flare up towards Bp. Madrid as well as towards the Holy Father. Juan Carlos Claret, spokesman for Osorno's Lay Organization, told the New York Times, "We are now seeing the real face of Pope Francis, and we demand an explanation."

And one of Fr. Karadima's victims, Juan Carlos Cruz, who claims Bp. Barros was often in Karadima's room when boys were abused, and even threatened seminarians who wanted to go public about the abuse, said of the video, "The Pope's statements are not surprising, but it is sad. The vision of a pope closer to abuse victims has been unmasked."

The Vatican has so far issued no statement in response to the video.


Have a news tip? Submit news to our tip line.

We rely on you to support our news reporting. Please donate today.
By commenting on ChurchMilitant.com you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our comment posting guidelines