Abuse Victims Accuse Chilean Member of Pope Francis’ C9 Council

Image: Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, CC BY-SA 2.0

Cardinal Francisco Errázuriz, a member of the Council of Nine Cardinals called by Pope Francis to help him with his reform of the Roman Curia, has now been strongly accused by three men who had been abused, in their youth, by the Chilean priest Father Fernando Karadima.

As the Austrian Catholic news website Kath.net reports on 4 May, the three abuse victims – Juan Carlos Cruz, José Andrés Murillo, and James Hamilton – just spent a week in Rome, upon the invitation of Pope Francis, in order to report to him directly what was so cruelly done to them in their youth. At a press conference on Wednesday in Rome, these three men subsequently spoke about this matter of the Chilean abuse case; on this occasion James Hamilton said that Cardinal Errázuriz had blocked for more than five years the prosecution of sexual crimes. Errázuriz, who is 84 years of age, was from 1998 until 2010 archbishop of the Archdiocese of Santiago, Chile’s capital city. Additionally, he was for years the President of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference and the head of the Latin American Episcopal Council CELAM.

According to Hamilton, Errázuriz had been informed about the sexual crimes of Father Fernando Karadima since 2002. He nevertheless blocked the investigations of this case, even though the Church’s promoter of justice, Father Eliseo Escudero, considered the accusations to be trustworthy. Only in 2009, says Hamilton, the accusations reached the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, after Cruz had given a new witness account.

In 2011, Karadima subsequently was condemned by the Vatican and was given a lifelong prohibition from the public exercise of any ministerial act, particularly confession and the spiritual guidance of any category of persons. He was to live in a private manner away from the places where he had abused young men.

To return to Hamilton’s own accusations. At the press gathering, he called Errázuriz “a criminal,” and he also accused the current archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, of covering up the abuse. “We would like to get you all into prison,” Hamilton added. According to Chilean law, however, there is a statue of limitation with regard to the committed crimes. Ezzati had been appointed the archbishop of Santiago by Pope Benedict XVI after the pope had accepted Errázuriz’ resignation.

Juan Carlos Cruz himself added that both Errázuriz and Ezzati had “deceived” the pope.

As Onepeterfive reported in March, Cruz had earlier already spoken about these two men. He then said in an interview with Katholisch.de:

We have always been encouraged to give testimony, and this we always did with good faith, but up to now, the cardinals and bishops have responded to it with less than good intentions. I am convinced that Cardinal Errázuriz – the former archbishop of the capital city [Santiago] has an enormously bad influence on the pope, because Errázuriz has covered up for things and because he tried to discredit the victims. His successor, Cardinal [Ricardo] Ezzati, only recently has called into question the objectivity of the victims. He is an absolutely insensible man.

As we also then reported, Cruz felt it was a “kick in the face from the pope in person,” when in 2013, Errázuriz was first called into the pope’s Council of then-Eight Cardinals and when then in 2014 Ezzati was named a cardinal by Pope Francis.

According to the new Kath.net report, the meeting which took place this week between Pope Francis and the three Karadima victims is said to have been positive. All three men say that they think this meeting might change the way of the Church’s dealings with the problem. However, they now also expect to see practical consequences. The pope has asked them to write up a paper with concrete propositions. According to a Crux report, Pope Francis told the three men: “I was part of the problem, I caused this, and I apologize to you.” This apology came after Pope Francis had earlier put into doubt the veracity of their own witnesses.

Pope Francis will meet, later this month, the Chilean bishops as a group. It is, however, still astonishing how much time he takes until he finally might remove some of the compromised shepherds from their positions.

In the meantime, reports are coming out that Bischop Juan Barros, who has been strongly criticized for his covering up the Karadima abuse, has disappeared from the public. For several weeks now, he is not fulfilling his office duties. The official explanation is that he has health issues.

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