Pope was made aware of Chile abuse ‘cover up’ in 2015, says Irish survivor

Marie Collins gave a letter to Francis’ envoy, contradicting statement of pontiff

Pope Francis received a victim’s letter in 2015 that graphically detailed how a priest sexually abused him and how other Chilean clergy ignored it, contradicting the pope’s insistence that no victims had come forward to denounce the cover up, it has emerged.

The Associated Press disclosed on Monday evening that Francis received the eight-page letter through his adviser on child sex abuse scandals Cardinal Seán O’Malley in April 2015.

The Irish Times has also obtained a copy of the letter, which was given to Cardinal O'Malley by abuse survivor Marie Collins, who was then a member of the pope's Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Ms Collins has also disclosed a photograph of the handing over of the letter, which she has made public in the wake of Francis’s claim that he had never heard of any victims’ complaints against Bishop Juan Barros over his handling of the case of Rev Fernando Karadima.


The scandal erupted last month when Francis’ trip to South America was marred by protests over his vigorous defence of Bishop Barros, who is accused by victims of witnessing and ignoring the abuse by Fr Karadima. During the trip, the Pope dismissed accusations against Bishop Barros as “slander”.

On the plane home, the pope told a reporter: “You, in all good will, tell me that there are victims, but I haven’t seen any, because they haven’t come forward.”

But members of the Commission for the Protection of Minors said in April 2015, they had sent a delegation to Rome specifically to hand-deliver a letter to the pope about Bishop Barros. The letter from Juan Carlos Cruz detailed the abuse, kissing and fondling he says he suffered at Fr Karadima’s hands, which he said the bishop and others saw but did nothing to stop.

Four members of the commission met with Cardinal O’Malley, explained their concerns about Francis’ recent appointment of Barros as a bishop in southern Chile, and gave him the letter to deliver to Francis.

“When we gave him (O’Malley) the letter for the pope, he assured us he would give it to the pope and speak of the concerns,” Ms Collins said. “And at a later date, he assured us that that had been done.”

Ms Collins told The Irish Times the photograph was taken to assure the victims in Chile that the letter had been handed over to the Pope's representative.

Mr Cruz, who now lives and works in Philadelphia, heard the same later that year.

“Cardinal O’Malley called me after the pope’s visit here in Philadelphia and he told me, among other things, that he had given the letter to the pope - in his hands,” he said in an interview at his home Sunday.

Neither the Vatican nor Cardinal O’Malley responded to multiple requests from AP for comment.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times