VATICAN CITY – The Vatican’s sex-crimes expert is changing plans and will fly to New York to take in-person testimony from a Chilean sex abuse victim after his pleas to be heard by Pope Francis were previously ignored, the victim told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The switch from a planned Skype interview came after the AP reported that Francis received a letter in 2015 from Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim of Chile’s most notorious pedophile priest. Cruz wrote the pope that one of the priest’s proteges, Bishop Juan Barros, was present for his abuse and did nothing, and questioned Francis’ decision to make him a diocesan bishop.
Barros has denied seeing any abuse committed by the Rev. Fernando Karadima, a charismatic priest sanctioned by the Vatican in 2011 for sexually abusing minors.
After the Barros affair exploded anew during Francis’ recent trip to Chile, with the pope denying he ever heard from any victims about the bishop, the Vatican last week tapped Archbishop Charles Scicluna to go to Santiago to take testimony from victims.
Originally, Scicluna was to interview Cruz via Skype since he lives in Philadelphia. But Scicluna called Cruz on Tuesday, “on behalf of the pope,” and asked Cruz if he could do the interview in person, Cruz told the AP on Wednesday. Their meeting is scheduled for Feb. 17 in New York, where Cruz has to be for work that day anyway, Cruz said.
“I think the Vatican’s change of attitude is due to the tremors caused by The Associated Press article ,” Cruz said.
Scicluna declined to comment.
For more than a decade, Scicluna was the Vatican’s lead sex crimes investigator, and famously went up against the Vatican hierarchy to sanction the serial pedophile Rev. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ. For decades, Maciel was protected by the highest officials of the Catholic Church who blocked an investigation into his crimes.
Once Scicluna was allowed to pursue it, he travelled all over — including to New York — to interview Maciel’s victims, preferring face-to-face testimony and to prevent victims already wounded by the church from having to travel to come to him.
The Vatican has said Scicluna is tasked with “listening to anyone who has expressed the desire to provide elements in their possession” about Barros.
Eva Vergara reported from Santiago, Chile.