Rod Dreher

The Cost Of Pope Francis’s Callousness


A heartfelt salute from me to the editors of Commonweal, the liberal Catholic magazine, for their sternly worded editorial calling out Pope Francis for his inexcusable behavior on the Chilean sex abuse case. Excerpt:

No issue threatens the church’s witness and credibility like its ongoing response to the sexual-abuse crisis, and it’s inexcusable that Francis responded the way he did. That all this comes so soon after letting the Commission on Protecting Minors lapse is further cause for alarm.

The letter that Francis received in 2015 directly contradicts his claim that no victims had come forward in Chile, and makes it difficult to believe that he was defending Barros out of ignorance. Francis’s election, with its promise to return a real measure of authority to local churches, gave new life to the reform agenda of Vatican II. But when it comes to the crisis that has devastated the church, it increasingly looks as though Francis is only offering more of the same—or worse. He might not be inclined to judge, but the church and the world are watching, and will not hesitate to do just that. Francis has demanded accountability from priests and bishops, and now must be held to account himself.

The “letter” in question is one dated March 3, 2015, and hand-delivered by Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston to Francis. The letter was from Juan Carlos Cruz, who accused a priest named Juan Barros of watching while his (Barros’s) mentor, a Father Fernando Karadima, molested him and other boys. Karadima was at long last punished by his crimes by the Vatican, but a judge in Chile said the he found the victims’ allegations to be “truthful and reliable,” and said that the only reason Karadima couldn’t be punished under Chile’s criminal law was that the statute of limitations had expired.

Francis named Barros a bishop in January 2015 over the objections of the Chilean bishops’ conference. According to the timeline published by the Catholic Herald, on February 3, Cruz wrote a long letter to the Vatican’s ambassador in Chile telling him what Barros had allegedly witnessed. When Barros was installed in March, there were big protests against it by local Catholics.

On his recent trip to Chile, Francis reiterated his defense of Barros, and told the public that no victims had come forward.

“The day someone brings me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk,” Francis said before celebrating Mass outside the northern Chilean city of Iquique. “But there is not one single piece of evidence. It is all slander. Is that clear?”

Cardinal O’Malley, who has been Francis’s chief advisor on sex abuse, rebuked the pope for his words. And now we probably know why: O’Malley himself delivered the letter personally to Francis. It is impossible to believe that Francis did not read the letter hand delivered by O’Malley.

What was in the letter? From the BBC’s latest: 

“When we were in a room with Karadima and Juan Barros, if he [Barros] wasn’t kissing Karadima, he watched as one of us, one of the younger ones, was touched by Karadima and forced to give him kisses,” [Cruz] writes [in his letter to Francis].

“Karadima would say to me: ‘Put your mouth next to mine and stick out your tongue.’ He’d stick out his and kiss us with his tongue. Juan Barros witnessed all of this on countless occasions, not just in my case but in the case of others as well.”

Addressing himself to Pope Francis, Mr Cruz says: “Holy Father, Juan Barros says he saw nothing and yet, there are dozens of us who can testify to the fact that not only was he present when Karadima abused us, but that he, too, kissed Karadima and they touched each other.”

He concludes the letter with this appeal: “Please Holy Father, don’t be like the others. There are so many of us who despite everything think that you can do something. I treasure my faith, it’s what sustains me, but it is slipping away from me.”

“Please Holy Father, don’t be like the others.” But he was like the others. He islike the others. This is the self-styled Pope of Mercy, but where in him is the mercy for men like Juan Carlos Cruz?

Michael Brendan Dougherty reveals the stakes:

Well, it’s now happened. The great scandal of the modern Catholic Church — its tolerance for clergy who abuse children, and its laxity when dealing with bishops who themselves tolerated or enabled priest-abusers — now touches directly on the pope himself.



The facts as we know them leave us with a few interpretations. 1) Pope Francis simply never read the letter, ignoring this extraordinary intervention by the Vatican’s own commission on a matter of public controversy for his pontificate. 2) Francis read the letter but forgot about it, reverting to his original understanding of the case. 3) Francis read the letter, but stuck to his decision for Barros, committing unintentional or intentional deceptions about the state of his knowledge of the accusations. 4) He read the letter, but either doubted the accusations in it, or at least found them so unimpressive that he did not decide to follow up on them.

The first explanation would mean that Francis was culpably ignorant. The second that he may lack the mental or moral faculties to competently govern the Catholic Church. The third that he is too stubborn or vain to change course in the face of evidence. And the last that he has little trust or faith in the Commission on the Protection of Minors to pass on credible counsel to him. Perhaps more reporting or disclosure will change our understanding, but none of these are satisfactory.

No, they are not.

Look, you know that this stuff enrages me. I lost my Catholic faith over it. In an important sense, what Rome does or does not do about clerical sexual molestation of children is not my problem, at least not like it once was. But this latest round hits on a week in which I have learned of four friends — four— who were sexually molested as small children. None by clergy, but all by people they and their families trusted. The fallout has been emotionally, psychologically, and physically devastating for them. One of these victims told me, “You spend your whole life thinking that there’s something in you that’s dirty, that you can never be clean.”

“But it wasn’t your fault,” I said.

“I know,” said this person. “I have always known that in my head. But I don’t know that in my heart. I don’t know that in my body. All my life, every time I’ve walked into a room, I have felt that everybody was judging me, because I was a dirty person.”

This, from one of the gentlest friends I have. What brought the topic up was my talking about the mess with Pope Francis and the Chilean bishop. My friend said, “That’s how it always goes. Nobody believes the children. They don’t want to believe the children.”

“Because they don’t want to believe the children,” I said, my jaw clenching. “If they believe the children, that means they have to act on it.”

The stories I have heard over the past few days have shaken me up pretty hard. I read about things like this a lot when I was covering the Catholic scandal from 2001 until around 2007 or so. I knew well that these things happened. I did not know that the abominable crime of child sexual abuse would ever strike so close to my circle. Again, these abusers were not clergy — though in one case, when the victim told her priest what had been done to her, the priest responded that it was her fault. She was seven years old. 

When does it end? When does it ever end? Who can you trust? Damned if I know.

May God have mercy on all these people who knew what was happening and looked the other way, and especially on those who called the victims liars, because it is surely beyond my capacity to have any.

Is Randall Margraves, the father in the clip below, a Catholic? If so, ordain him and make him Pope:

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7 Responses to The Cost Of Pope Francis’s Callousness

  1. So not gonna use my name on this one says:

    My wife was repeatedly raped by her stepfather when she was 12-13. This led to her acting out sexually a lot (she is very lucky she never caught an STD, she did wind up giving a baby up for adoption while in high school); she has since found God and turned her life around, though not without a lot of sacrifice (and therapy).

    When we were dating and this all came out, she made three statements that still somewhat haunt me whenever I hear of sexual abuse:

    1. When it came out, no one believed her. Her mother, her teachers, the cops – no one. The only thing that finally convinced the cops to at least give it a serious look is her absolute breakdown when they insisted she just give the lies up and go home to her mother and stepfather.

    Only her father believed her, but mostly because he wanted to believe the worst about his ex (who had an affair with the guy she left him for, the stepfather in question). At least she had his house to move to; Child services are not always reliable and far too overworked as it was (and is).

    When she went to court – her mother’s family all showed up – to support the stepfather.

    2. She never felt “dirty” about it. What she said messed her up the most was “the problem with the rape was you knew it was wrong but it felt so damn good.” That’s why she acted out sexually so much – it was like a drug, and it felt “so damn good” she couldn’t get enough of it.

    Overall, it scares me how much things have not changed. After we got married, things came out about another family member who was sexually abused by someone else (not the stepfather – after a couple of decades in prison and counselling, he seems to have reformed or at least learned to behave). My wife believed her because of her experiences, and I believed because of my wife, but it was insane how few other people believed.

    I know there’s a serious problem in some circles of false accusations (such as on college campuses), but at the same time, I think the standard of “refusing to believe” is still too much a part of our culture.

  2. Bill R says:

    In one week, this Pope has kissed the butts of the Communist Chinese while kicking the butts of innocent children destroyed by hell-bound Catholic clergy. How can any Catholic with a conscience tolerate Francis?

  3. Elijah says:

    Recently I ran across a story about the defrocked John Geoghan’s murder in prison:

    “I know John did wrong,” said the Rev. Maurice V. Connolly, one of [John] Geoghan’s seminary classmates. “But as I read more about the treatment he got, it was bad that that was allowed to go on in prison. John was a little old man at that point. He was kind of shriveled and frail, and he was not the type who could really stick up for himself. . .Now I hope his death will bring about some reform in the prison system,” Connolly said.”

    Even after Geoghan’s notorious conduct, this priest’s concern is for…the prison system. Nary a word about the hundreds of children and families ruined by Geoghan and the Church’s despicable conduct. Not a peep about the children who, being unable to stick up for themselves or defend themselves, were raped by that ordained monster.

    I hope Rev. Connolly’s bishop roasted the pants off him for speaking to the press about Geoghan at all, let alone speaking through his bunghole.

    One hopes that someone will similarly roast the pants off of Pope Francis. Or at least help him find a press agent who might have the intestinal fortitude to tell the pope to shut his cakehole.

  4. mohammad says:

    Beware the bitterness that seems always waiting to capture you in occasions like this!

    [NFR: You’re right. Thank you for the warning. — RD]

  5. LouisM says:

    I agree that Catholicism must be brought to account for its callousness but let us not be hypocritical and myopic. If Catholicism is to be brought to account then so should Islam and Judaism and other religions, as well as, the atheist/secular non-believers in public schools, entertainment media, etc.
    Evil grows in darkness and dies in the light. The Catholic Church has had the light shined upon its house of faith, its clergy, its parishes and diocese. I would argue that while the catholic church has been scrutinized and called to account all other pedophilia has continued unobstructed. The abuse continues in darkness and silence.

  6. Leon J. Podles says:

    Francis doesn’t want to judge pedophiles. After all, who is he to judge. His laxity includes adulterous remarriage (popular) and pedophilia (unpopular). He is at least consistent.

  7. Matt in VA says:

    Maybe the fact that the “trad dads” and the First Things writers and all the rest of you guys can do no more in response to the massive pedophile crisis in the churches than endlessly generate “sternly worded editorials” is the reason why the pedophiles have such a good time of it nowadays. You guys love Chesterton, right? Read Chesterton’s essay on Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby. He had your number:

    Nicholas Nickleby, for instance, wanders through the world; he takes a situation as assistant to a Yorkshire schoolmaster; he sees an act of tyranny of which he strongly disapproves; he cries out “Stop!” in a voice that makes the rafters ring; he thrashes the schoolmaster within an inch of his life; he throws the schoolmaster away like an old cigar, and he goes away. The modern intellect is positively prostrated and flattened by this rapid and romantic way of righting wrongs. If a modern philanthropist came to Dotheboys Hall I fear he would not employ the simple, sacred, and truly Christian solution of beating Mr. Squeers with a stick. I fancy he would petition the Government to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into Mr. Squeers. I think he would every now and then write letters to newspapers reminding people that, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, there was a Royal Commission to inquire into Mr. Squeers. I agree that he might even go the length of calling a crowded meeting in St. James’s Hall on the subject of the best policy with regard to Mr. Squeers. At this meeting some very heated and daring speakers might even go the length of alluding sternly to Mr. Squeers. Occasionally even hoarse voices from the back of the hall might ask (in vain) what was going to be done with Mr. Squeers. The Royal Commission would report about three years afterwards and would say that many things had happened which were certainly most regrettable; that Mr. Squeers was the victim of a bad system; that Mrs. Squeers was also the victim of a bad system; but that the man who sold Squeers his cane had really acted with great indiscretion and ought to be spoken to kindly. Something like this would be what, after four years, the Royal Commission would have said; but it would not matter in the least what the Royal Commission had said, for by that time the philanthropists would be off on a new tack and the world would have forgotten all about Dotheboys Hall and everything connected with it…

    If we wish to understand the spirit and the period of Nicholas Nickleby we must endeavour to comprehend and to appreciate the old more decisive remedies, or, if we prefer to put it so, the old more desperate remedies. Our fathers had a plain sort of pity; if you will, a gross and coarse pity. They had their own sort of sentimentalism. They were quite willing to weep over Smike. But it certainly never occurred to them to weep over Squeers. Even those who opposed the French war opposed it exactly in the same way as their enemies opposed the French soldiers. They fought with fighting. Charles Fox was full of horror at the bitterness and the useless bloodshed; but if any one had insulted him over the matter, he would have gone out and shot him in a duel as coolly as any of his contemporaries. All their interference was heroic interference. All their legislation was heroic legislation. All their remedies were heroic remedies. No doubt they were often narrow and often visionary. No doubt they often looked at a political formula when they should have looked at an elemental fact. No doubt they were pedantic in some of their principles and clumsy in some of their solutions. No doubt, in short, they were all very wrong; and no doubt we are the people, and wisdom shall die with us. But when they saw something which in their eyes, such as they were, really violated their morality, such as it was, then they did not cry “Investigate!” They did not cry “Educate!” They did not cry “Improve!” They did not cry “Evolve!” Like Nicholas Nickleby they cried “Stop!” And it did stop.

    [NFR: Watch who you’re criticizing. I have said publicly for years that what ought to happen is Catholic fathers should beat the hell out of priests who molested their children. I think that’s a good general rule for all fathers and/or male relatives of victims. This happens to be illegal, however. If anyone — priest, relative, neighbor, anybody — molested one of my children, I honestly don’t know how I would keep myself from committing homicide. The only thing — the ONLY thing — that would stay my hand is fear of what would happen to my children if their father had to go to prison. — RD]

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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  1. vasheepdog94 says:

    One more thing… that picture is saddening. I feel sorry for him and his eternity. Not afraid to call it like it is. Please, Repent Francis.. don’t go to Hell!!!! Come on Bergoglio!!!! Don’t do it!! Noooooooo!!! Stop. Repent!!!!!!!!!

  2. vasheepdog94 says:

    Wow. He looks angry. No Doubt. Last Pope before the Holy Pope.

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