Pope Francis has provided a fresh, progressive life to the aging and archaic Roman Catholic Church. His inclusive views of the LGBTQ community, as well as his public overtures to the leaders of other leading faiths have proved Francis to be easily the most future-minded Pope in history. However, according to the Associated Press, in January, Pope Francis nominated Juan Barros to the bishop of Osorno in Chile. Nearly every high-ranking member of the Church has criticized Barros’ nomination. Church members have highlighted accusations that Barros helped to cover up child-abuse cases in the Chilean branch of the Catholic Church. By nominating such a man, Francis has provided evidence that his penchant for listening to public opinion only goes so far. If he really wishes to reform the Catholic Church, he first must work to rid the organization of the cancer of child-abuse, banishing every perpetrator and facilitator within the clergy.
Pope Francis’ progressive views have afforded him affection from the open-minded and youth of the Catholic Church. While his human rights agenda is laudable, ignoring the most damning conduct of the Catholic Church will only serve to show Francis’ supporters that he is cut from the same cloth as the archaic and narrow-minded line of Popes he succeeded.
The Reverend Fernando Karadima perpetrated the accusations of child abuse, which Barros is accused of ignoring. The AP reports that victims of “Fernando Karadima say Barros knew of and even witnessed Karadima’s abuse decades ago when he was a protege of the charismatic Karadima.” If there is even a shred of evidence to substantiate the claims that Barros witnessed these vile acts and declined to report Karadima to authorities, then he not only does not deserve to be nominated, but should be banished from the Catholic Church all together. There can be no tolerance of such lascivious behavior.
A leader of a Catholic diocese, especially in region as intensely religious as South America, must be a trustworthy individual who has the faith of the people in his diocese. To appoint a man that does not have widespread support in his region, or within all ranks of the Catholic Church is ludicrous. Support is critical to the success of a leader, and one who has no support from the beginning is doomed to fail at providing the necessary guidance needed in a leadership position.
Barros himself, according to the AP, did not know of the crimes committed by Karadima until reading of them in the newspapers and seeing the reports. While this may have been an attempt on his part to plead ignorance, it only proves his incompetence and untrustworthiness as a potential leader. Claiming that he had no clue that such despicable behavior was occurring within the Church, within his own country, is to ignore the incredibly close-knit makeup of the Catholic Church. To expect the public to believe that a high-ranking member of the Church would not be aware of accusations and an investigation into another high ranking member until his banishment (which occurred in 2011) is absurd. It borders on the impossible.
Pope Francis has taken the Catholic Church in a drastically different direction than any of his predecessors. Beyond that, he has stirred life into what some have seen as a dying organization, by ridding the Church of the weight of outdated and backwards beliefs. He deserves the praise he has received for such actions. However, the nomination he put forth for an accused accessory to child abuse shows what may be a fatal flaw in Francis’ progressive agenda. He is a man, who despite being accepting and progressive, rose up through the ranks of an organization, which favors nepotism and has a past of sweeping allegations of child abuse under the rug. While other members of the Church have been less receptive of Francis’ progressive moves, all have been united in the recent cause of eliminating child abuse. In order to do so, Francis must eliminate the practice of shielding abusers and those who allow abuse to fester and go unreported. For the Catholic Church to truly step into the 21st Century, and for Pope Francis to secure his legacy as a maverick, this is the issue the Papacy must turn its attention to.