“Everything we had to say about Karadima has been said. He was one more link in the culture of abuse and cover-up in the Church,” they said. “We are at peace, and we are only moved to continue fighting so that these crimes do not happen again, and for so many people who have lived through it and who still do not have justice.”
Protests against the promotion of Bishop Juan Barros, alleged to have been one of Karadima’s protégés and protectors, helped turn the Chilean sexual abuse crisis into a global concern for the Church. The matter escalated during a papal visit to the country in January 2018, during which Pope Francis made his public defense of Barros.
Those remarks drew serious rebukes, including one from Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, chair of the pope’s commission on sexual abuse. Pope Francis apologized for the tone of his remarks, while initially insisting on the innocence of Barros.
The Pope then sent Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, an expert on clerical sexual abuse allegations, to investigate the claims against Barros. Scicluna produced a lengthy report on the matter, leading to a more thorough papal apology and major efforts to change and reform the leadership of the Catholic Church in Chile.
In April 2018, Francis sent a letter to Chile’s bishops saying that he had made “serious errors in judgement regarding the matter,” which he attributed to “a lack of truthful and balanced information.” After crisis meetings over several days in May 2018, the pope expressed his anger at evidence of systematic attempts to suppress and ignore allegations of clerical sexual abuse in the country. Some 34 Chilean bishops submitted their resignations, and the Pope accepted at least eight of them.
In March 2021 Pope Francis appointed Cruz, a victim of Karadima, to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
“I am very grateful to Pope Francis for trusting me with this appointment. I deeply appreciate it,” Cruz said in response.
In 2015 Cruz had sought to send a letter to Pope Francis through Marie Collins, then a member of the pope’s sexual abuse commission. The letter included Cruz’s report that Barros and others had witnessed Karadima abusing or kissing him but did nothing to stop it. In April 2015, Collins delivered this letter to O’Malley and asked the cardinal to deliver it to Pope Francis.
In February 2018, Collins told the Associated Press that O’Malley gave assurances that the letter was delivered during the September 2015 papal visit to Philadelphia. Collins said O’Malley “told me, among other things, that he had given the letter to the pope — in his hands.”
Victims have argued that Cardinals Francisco Javier Errázuriz and Ricardo Ezzati, who both served as archbishops of Santiago, were responsible for covering up Karadima’s crimes. In March 2019 Pope Francis accepted Ezzati’s resignation as archbishop—a resignation originally submitted with the other Chilean bishops. Ezzati had faced allegations of covering up abuse by other priests, though he denies ever covering up abuse.
In a 2018 lawsuit, Cruz and the two other Karadima victims with him charged that Errazuriz had committed perjury in the civil suit for compensation for damages filed against the Archdiocese of Santiago.
(Story continues below)
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Cardinal Errazuriz served for a time on Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, a special advisory body. He left that council in 2018, telling local media it was the end of his term. He has been accused of misinforming the Pope about the role of Barros in concealing Karadima’s abuse.
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.