MEXICO CITY – Latin American and U.S. victims of child abuse by members of the clergy asked the pope in Mexico Monday that he go further than “good words” with his vow not to tolerate pedophilia in the church, and accused the pontiff of a “contradictory” position on the subject.
In an open letter sent to the Argentine pontiff, victims from countries including Mexico, Chile, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Peru and the United States demanded that his statement to the effect that “there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors” be translated into effective action.
The pope “is rewarding people who should be in jail,” former seminarian Juan Carlos Cruz told a press conference, referring to his own experience as victim of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, judged guilty by the Vatican in 2011 of sexually abusing minors.
About that matter, Cruz mentioned recent incidents in Chile, such as the elevation to cardinal of the archbishop of Santiago, Ricardo Ezzati, and the naming of Juan Barros as bishop of the diocese of Osorno, while both of them, according to the ex-seminarian, were covering up the Karadima case.
“We ask the pope that he at least comply with what he is saying,” Cruz said, acknowledging that the Chilean victims felt “tremendously disappointed” in the pope.
“Words and certain actions aren’t enough – even less when they are ambiguous and contradictory – because they not only don’t signify zero tolerance for clerical pedophilia, but only aggravate the harm done to the victims and do not build an institutional path to truth and justice,” the victims said in the letter.
The ex-priest and defender of human rights, Alberto Athie, said that Pope Francis will have to establish “levels of responsibility” among members of the church, both with regard to those who commit abuses and those who cover up what the offenders are doing.
Athie also involved the previous pope, Benedict XVI in these responsibilities, because “he is implicated, since he knew of thousands of cases of child abuse and only resolved 400.”
Those 400 cases were priests who were suspended, in secret, and whose identities and whereabouts are still unknown, since the Vatican “has not assumed the responsibility of providing that information” to the authorities or of making it public.
“The church believes it is not accountable to anyone, but it has to learn that it must submit to civil authority,” Athie said.