The former chief sex crimes prosecutor for the Catholic Church, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, was in New York this past weekend on special assignment. He went to interview Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean man who alleges that Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, Chile, witnessed the abuse Cruz and others suffered at the hands of Barros’s mentor, the disgraced Chilean priest, Fernando Karadima. Cruz further alleges that Barros turned a blind eye, and himself acted inappropriately.
Though neither Cruz nor the archbishop offered details of their conversation, which took place over four hours on Saturday at Holy Name of Jesus church in Manhattan, Cruz did tell reporters he had the impression Scicluna listened carefully. “For the first time I felt that someone is listening,” Cruz told reporters after the session, “I think [Scicluna] was sincerely moved by what I was saying.”
The case is complex, with a long history. What follows is a rehearsal of the most basic facts.
Barros was Karadima’s protégé, one of four clerics to come from the group formed around Karadima in El Bosque parish, Santiago, and rise under Karadima’s tutelage to high office in the Chilean Church. During the 1980s, when Cruz was involved in the group of adolescents that had gathered around Karadima, Cruz says Barros – who was going through formation and beginning his ecclesiastical career at the time – was complicit in the abuse Cruz and others suffered and acted as one of Karadima’s chief lieutenants.
“I saw Fr Fernando Karadima and Juan Barros kiss each other and touch each other,” Cruz wrote in a letter. “More difficult,” Cruz’s letter continues, “would be when we were in Karadima’s room, and Juan Barros – if he wasn’t kissing Karadima – would watch when Karadima would touch us[.]” Barros denies these allegations.
The letter from Cruz goes on to tell of how Barros “mysteriously” came to know facts Cruz had only shared with Karadima – who acted as Cruz’s confessor and spiritual director – under the seal of confession. Barros denies these allegations, as well.
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