Pope Francis found himself courting controversy on a recent visit to Chile when he defended Bishop Juan Barros, who has been accused of covering up the actions of a pedophile priest. Francis insisted that he considers the allegations against the bishop "slander" because nobody has ever come forward with evidence against Barros. But now the AP reports that the pope received an eight-page letter in 2015 from a victim in which the man asserts that Barros didn't just cover up abuse by the Rev. Fernando Karadima, he personally witnessed it. Details and developments:
- The letter: It was written by Juan Carlos Cruz and delivered to to Cardinal Sean O'Malley, a top papal adviser on the abuse issue, by members of the pope's own Commission for the Protection of Minors in April 2015. "When we gave him (O'Malley) the letter for the pope, he assured us he would give it to the pope and speak of the concerns," says panel member Marie Collins. "And at a later date, he assured us that that had been done." In fact, the presentation of the letter to O'Malley was commemorated in a photo. Cruz tells the BBC that he, too, was later assured by O'Malley that the pope had received it.
- Did he read it? It's impossible to say whether Francis actually read the letter, but the New York Times lays out the questions: "Did he read the letter and decide not to tell reporters about it? Did he choose to believe Bishop Barros over Mr. Cruz? Or did he never read the letter, or perhaps read it but forget about it?" Another former commission member calls it all "willful blindness" on the part of Francis.