ROME — Two survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy who now sit on a Vatican anti-abuse commission are traveling to Rome this weekend to meet with Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley to protest Pope Francis’ recent appointment of a Chilean bishop linked to a notorious sex abuser.
A commission member speaking on background because he’s not authorized to discuss the matter confirmed to Crux that the meeting between O’Malley and the two victims who sit on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors — Marie Collins of Ireland and Peter Saunders of the United Kingdom — will happen on Sunday.
Collins and Saunders will be joined by two other members of the Vatican panel.
Saunders spoke on Friday about the upcoming meeting in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter.
“I’m hoping Francis will be there as well, because we’re going to meet [O’Malley] in the Domus Santa Marta about this Chilean bishop situation, which is really quite disturbing,” Saunders said.
The Chilean bishop is Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid, previously in charge of Chile’s military diocese, who was appointed in mid-January as the new bishop of the small Osorno diocese and installed March 21 amid violent protests.
Barros is one of four bishops mentored by the Rev. Fernando Karadima, a long-time point of reference for Catholic clergy in the country. In 2011, the Vatican sentenced Karadima to a life of “penitence and prayer” after finding him guilty of pedophilia and abuse of his ecclesiastical position.
The victims of Karadima have accused Barros and three other bishops of covering up for Karadima while he sexually abused devoted followers during the 1980s and 1990s. None of those bishops was ever charged with a crime, either by the Vatican or Chilean law enforcement agencies.
Saunders, founder of the UK-based National Association for People Abused in Childhood, told NCR that Barros “should not be in charge of a diocese where he will be responsible for young people. It’s an outrage.”
Through Twitter, Collins also has been outspoken against the appointment of Barros to the diocese of Osorno, calling it “a disappointment.”
The commission is currently working in small groups, each providing different perspectives to issues related to the prevention and protection of minors and vulnerable adults.
Two other survivors will be a part of the Sunday lunch with O’Malley, called “to take advantage of the cardinal being in Europe to participate in the meetings of the council of nine cardinals who advise the pope,” according to the commission member who spoke to Crux.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, released a statement saying they’re encouraged that four abuse victims will meet this weekend with O’Malley about what they called Pope Francis’ “irresponsible appointment of a corrupt Chilean bishop.”
However, the SNAP statement added that “every single member of the pontiff’s commission should be shouting from the rooftops about this callous and hurtful appointment that will only discourage other victims, witnesses and whistleblowers from exposing clergy who commit and conceal child sex crimes.”
Looking ahead to the commission’s next plenary meeting, working groups are focusing on several priorities:
- Pastoral care for survivors and their families
- Education on warning signs and proper responses to abuse allegations
- Guidelines for best practices
- Formation to the priesthood and religious life
- Ecclesial and civil norms governing allegations of abuse
- Accountability for those in positions of responsibility within the Church when dealing with allegations of abuse