Irish survivor pleased with Vatican abuse meeting

The Irishwoman who advises Pope Francis on the Church’s child protection measures has said she is pleased with a meeting to discuss a controversial bishop accused of covering up abuse.

Marie Collins, a survivor of clerical abuse and member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, travelled to Rome at the weekend to meet with the commission’s head, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, to raise concerns about the appointment of Bishop Juan Barros.

Dr Barros, who was ordained bishop in 1995 and has been bishop to Chile’s armed forces since 2004, was – despite protests – installed last month as bishop of the tiny diocese of Osorno. Chilean abuse survivors accuse him of witnessing abuse by his influential mentor Fr Fernando Karadima, sentenced by Rome in 2011 to live out his remaining days in penitential solitude, and of having covered up complaints of Fr Karadima’s abuse.

Mrs Collins told The Irish Catholic of Dr Barros that, “If he saw behaviour that was inappropriate in the past and didn’t see it as abuse then there’s a concern” as “if he doesn’t understand abuse he is not appropriate to be in charge of a diocese”.

Explaining that the commission has no oversight role in the appointment of bishops, Mrs Collins said, “The commission cannot impose sanctions…It’s simply an advisory body. In this case, members of our working group decided that we needed to say something and register what we felt was a worry.

“It’s important that we did this,” she said, adding, “we are a commission for the protection of minors, and it is minors in that diocese in the future that we are trying to protect.”

Insisting that the discussion with the cardinal was “not in any way a confrontational meeting or one where we went in making demands”, she said that overall she and her colleagues were “very happy with Cardinal O’Malley’s response”. 

He accepted that it was appropriate for the commission members to have spoken to him about the issue, and “listened very carefully, understood and will pass on concerns to the Pope”, she said.