Chilean bishops’ resignations alone not justice, says Collins

Irish abuse survivor says clerics should face disciplinary process over alleged cover-up

Dublin abuse survivor Marie Collins has said allowing Chile's 34 bishops simply to resign in connection with their handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations "doesn't appear like justice to me".

Ms Collins played a major role in bringing the issue to a head through her role as a member of the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors, from which she resigned in protest last year.

The offer of resignation from the Chilean bishops follows a meeting between them and Pope Francis at the Vatican this week where he was forthright in his criticism. The pope has yet to accept their resignations.

On a visit to Chile last January, the pope described as "calumny" allegations by abuse survivors there of a cover-up by Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno. The survivors claimed that when the bishop was a priest he knew about their abuse by Fr Fernando Karadima and did nothing about it.


In 2011, Fr Karadima was found guilty by the Vatican of sexually abusing boys and sentenced to a life of prayer and penance.

While in Chile Pope Francis pledged his support for Bishop Barros, saying: “The day they bring me proof against Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny.”

But such evidence was made available to the pope in 2015 by Ms Collins.


In April 2015, she had presented a letter to Cardinal Seán O'Malley, chair of the Vatican's Commission for the Protection of Minors, of which she then was a member. It was addressed to Pope Francis from Juan Carlos Cruz, who detailed in it his abuse by Fr Karadima as allegedly witnessed by Bishop Barros.

Ms Collins was photographed making the presentation.

Following the pope’s remarks last January, she published the letter internationally and the photograph of her handing it to Cardinal O’Malley for Pope Francis.

A Vatican investigation was set up subsequently and 64 Chilean abuse survivors were interviewed. Its report led to Pope Francis's statement on April 11th last where he admitted making "grave errors" of judgment in the Chilean clerical sex abuse scandal.

He invited three Chilean abuse survivors to stay with him in Rome over the final weekend of April and summoned all of Chile’s bishops to Rome for this week.

Speaking to The Irish Times on Friday night, Ms Collins asked whether "any of these [Chilean] bishops, who tried to destroy survivors, will face any disciplinary process?"

One of the first proposals of the Commission for the Protection of Minors was that a tribunal be set up in the Vatican to hold bishops to account for mishandling clerical child sex abuse cases. In June 2015, Pope Francis announced the creation of such a tribunal at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to deal with errant bishops.

The initiative ran into the ground, however, as objections were cited within the congregation under canon law.

Pope Francis tried again in June 2016 when he published the apostolic letter A Loving Mother, which provided for the removal of bishops or other church leaders negligent in addressing child protection. Relevant structures have yet to be put in place.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times