Pope’s attitude to abuse survivors ‘disappointing’ – Marie Collins

The sole Irish member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has said she is “disappointed” with comments by Pope Francis recorded in a five-month-old video that was made public last week.

Abuse survivor Marie Collins was responding to a video in which the Pontiff was recorded speaking to the former spokesman for Chile’s bishops, who said the Chilean Church was “praying and suffering” for him. 

The Pope promptly said the Church in Chile has “lost its head” over his controversial appointment of Bishop Juan Barros to head the Diocese of Osorno, urging him against being “led around by the nose by these leftists who are the ones who put this [opposition] together”. 

Dr Barros’s appointment this March was widely opposed in Chile, with 51 of the country’s 120 parliamentarians having – along with over 30 clergy and 1,300 lay people from Osorno – written to Rome in protest. Despite a Vatican investigation into claims against him, he is widely regarded as a defender of his one-time mentor, Fr Fernando Karadima, a prominent priest who the Vatican in 2011 found guilty of abuse and sentenced to a life of “prayer and penance”.

“Osorno suffers for being stupid because it has not opened its heart to what God says,” the visibly frustrated Pontiff was also recorded as saying.

Mrs Collins told The Irish Catholic “the whole attitude to the issue is depressing, disappointing and discouraging,” continuing, “The people of that diocese and many of the priests there have petitioned the Holy Father about Barros and are unhappy to have him as bishop. 

“I imagine they feel very hurt and upset.”

Juan Carlos Claret, a spokesman for the lay movement OLA de Osorno, said the video shows the Pope as “impervious to the re-victimisation of those whom he promised to protect, namely the victims of childhood sexual abuse”. He told The Irish Catholic that the Pope’s attitude is not wholly surprising, however, claiming his language echoes that used by Fr Karadima’s defenders in 2010.

“The Pope says we shouldn’t be led by lies,” he said, “but wasn’t it he who said we should believe the victims?”