“It is understandable that Pope Francis’ statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator,” O’Malley said.
“Words that convey the message 'if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed' abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile,” he said.
Since he was not personally involved in the Chilean cases, O'Malley said he couldn't speak as to why the Pope chose to use the specific words he did when responding to reporters.
“What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.”
“Accompanying the Holy Father at numerous meetings with survivors I have witnessed his pain of knowing the depth and breadth of the wounds inflicted on those who were abused and that the process of recovery can take a lifetime,” O'Malley said, adding that Francis' many statements insisting on a “zero-tolerance” policy for abuse in the Church “are genuine and they are his commitment.”
During the press conference, the Pope said that he had seen O’Malley’s statement and that he has appreciation for the cardinal: “I thank him for his statement because it was very just.”
“[O'Malley] said all that I did and that I do, that the Church does, and then he spoke of the sorrow of victims” in general, Francis said. “Because many victims feel that they are not able to bring [forward] a document or a testimonial.”
Aboard the flight, the Pope also explained the background of letter he wrote to Barros two years ago, and which has recently surfaced.
The letter illustrates a dialogue of 10-12 months between him and Barros, he said, beginning at the time the scandal concerning Karadima was revealed.
Francis said that at that time, someone from the Chilean bishops' conference suggested that the four bishops who had been close to Karadima should resign or take a sabbatical year until the scandal had passed over, “because they are good bishops.”
At this time, Barros, who had been a bishop since 1995, followed this advice and submitted his resignation to the Holy See. Pope Francis said that he did not allow the bishop's resignation, because to do so would be “to admit culpability in advance,” in his opinion. And in this case, as in any, “if there are culpable parties, it will be investigated.”
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In 2015, when Francis appointed Barros bishop of Osorno, Chile, there were protests, and again, Barros submitted his resignation, Francis said.
“I spoke with him for a long time, others spoke at length with him...” We all told him to continue as bishop, the Pope noted.
“They have continued to investigate Barros, but there is no evidence and this is what I wanted to say: I cannot condemn him because I don't have the evidence... But I am also convinced that he is innocent.”
O'Malley is the head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which just concluded a 3-year mandate in December. The Vatican has not issued any statements on the the commission since its expiration, causing some to speculate on the future of its existence.
In the most recent meetings of the Council of Cardinals, O'Malley spoke on the commission's continued work, explaining that it is in the Pope's hands to decide whether to reconfirm current members and whom to appoint as new members.
In the presser, Francis said that before the start of his trip, he had received a list of recommendations for new members, which he is now studying. The Pope did not say whether O'Malley would be reappointed.