NEW YORK — A Vatican sex-crimes investigator is meeting in New York with one of the key victims in the Chilean abuse scandal that involves a bishop Pope Francis has vigorously defended.
The meeting on Saturday between Archbishop Charles Scicluna and whistleblower Juan Carlos Cruz will take place at a Roman Catholic church in Manhattan.
Scicluna is investigating accusations against Bishop Juan Barros, a protege of Chile’s most notorious predator priest, Father Fernando Karadima.
Cruz and two others have said Barros witnessed the abuse Karadima inflicted on them and ignored it.
Barros has denied seeing or knowing of any abuse.
“I never knew anything about, nor ever imagined, the serious abuses which that priest committed against the victims,” he told The Associated Press recently.
The Vatican removed Karadima from ministry and sentenced him to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” in 2010 for his crimes. But Francis angered many when he appointed Barros the bishop of Osorno, Chile, in 2015.
Francis vetoed a proposal from the leadership of Chile’s bishops that Barros and two other bishops trained by Karadima resign and take a year’s sabbatical.
Francis has said he overruled the recommendation and rejected Barros’ resignation twice because he had no evidence of Barros’ wrongdoing.
But the AP reported this month that Francis received an eight-page letter from Cruz in April 2015 detailing his abuse and Barros’ complicity. Cruz had mailed similar versions of the letter to the pope and his ambassador in Santiago but never received any response.
Cruz now lives and works in Philadelphia. Scicluna had planned to speak with him by Skype but switched to an in-person interview in New York after the AP reported that Cruz’s letter had been hand-delivered to the pope.
In the letter written in Spanish, Cruz begs for Francis to listen to him and make good on his pledge of “zero tolerance” for sex abuse.
He described how Karadima would kiss Barros and fondle his genitals, and do the same with younger priests and teens, and how young priests and seminarians would fight to sit next to Karadima at the table to receive his affections.
“More difficult and tough was when we were in Karadima’s room and Juan Barros — if he wasn’t kissing Karadima — would watch when Karadima would touch us — the minors — and make us kiss him, saying: ‘Put your mouth near mine and stick out your tongue.’ He would stick his out and kiss us with his tongue,” Cruz told the pope. “Juan Barros was a witness to all this innumerable times, not just with me but with others as well.”
“Juan Barros covered up everything that I have told you,” he added.