Pope Francis weakly apologized to victims of clergy sex abuse, claiming he unknowingly wounded them when he defended a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse by his mentor.
Speaking with journalists on his flight to Rome from Lima, Peru, Jan. 21, the pope said he only realized later that his words erroneously implied that victims’ accusations are credible only with concrete proof, reports Catholic News.
“To hear that the pope says to their face, ‘Bring me a letter with proof,’ is a slap in the face,” the pope said.
Pope Francis was referring to a response he gave in Iquique, Chile, Jan. 18 when local reporters asked about his support for Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, given accusations that the bishop may have been aware of abuse perpetrated by his former mentor, Father Fernando Karadima. The priest was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.
“The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny. Is that clear?” the pope had told the reporters in Iquique.
His response provoked further outrage, especially from Father Karadima’s victims who said the pope’s response made his earlier apologies for the church’s failure to protect sex abuse victims seem hollow.
Asked about the incident during the flight back to Rome, Pope Francis said he meant to use the word “evidence,” not “proof.” The way he phrased his response, he said, caused confusion and was “not the best word to use to approach a wounded heart.”
“Of course, I know that there are many abused people who cannot bring proof (or) they don’t have it,” he said. “Or at times they have it but they are ashamed and cover it up and suffer in silence. The tragedy of the abused is tremendous.”
CRITICS DECRY DISMAL RECORD
Victims group have criticised the pope’s record on abuse.
He defended it on the plane, saying that since he started his papacy in 2013, he had received about 25 requests for pardons by priests convicted of pedophilia, most of them very old.
“I have not signed even one,” he said, denying a U.S. media report last year.
While the pope has vowed “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse, his efforts have sputtered.
A planned Vatican tribunal to judge bishops accused of covering up sexual abuse or mishandling cases never started and the much-touted commission O’Malley heads has been hit by defections by high-profile non-clerical members who had been victims of abuse when they were children, reports Reuters.
Marie Collins of Ireland quit in frustration last year, citing a “shameful” lack of cooperation within the Vatican. Another, Peter Saunders of Britain, also quit in frustration.
The pope reminded reporters on the plane that on the first day of his trip to Chile he had expressed his “pain and shame” for the rape and molestation of children by priests and later met with two victims.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
January 22nd, 2018