Vatican defends appointment of bishop linked to abuse

Bishop Juan Barros accused of covering up for Chile’s most notorious paedophile priest

The Holy See yesterday waded into the row about the controversial appointment of Monsignor Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid as Bishop of Oserno in Chile, an appointment made despite protests from sex abuse victims that Bishop Barros had covered up for Chile’s most notorious paedophile priest.

In a move that hardly seems in keeping with the spirit of the Francis pontificate, the Holy See defended the appointment.

“Prior to the recent appointment of His Excellency Monsignor Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid as Bishop of Oserno, Chile, the Congregation for Bishops carefully examined the prelate’s candidature and did not find objective reasons to preclude the appointment.”


The inauguration on March 21st met with unusual opposition, with some 650 people turning up to protest at Oserno Cathedral dressed in black. Many local priests boycotted the ceremony, and more than 1,000 Catholics wrote to Pope Francis, asking him to reconsider the appointment.


Those opposed to Bishop Barros point out that he was a protege of Father Fernando Karadima, one of Chile's most influential and respected priests. In 2011, at the age of 81, Fr Karadima was sanctioned by the Vatican itself for paedophile crime, being ordered to retire to a life of "penitence and prayer".

Months after that Holy See judgment, a criminal case brought against Fr Karadima in Chile was dismissed because it fell outside the statute of limitations.

Opponents of the Barros appointment argue that the bishop used his position as a military chaplain to block investigations into Fr Karadima.


al For his part, Bishop Barros has denied the allegations

. “I never had knowledge of, or could have imagined, the serious abuses that this priest committed against the victims,” he wrote to fellow priests.

The Vatican’s response to this latest clerical sex abuse controversy may be seriously misplaced, since it seems based on the belief that only a minority of Chilean Catholics are strongly opposed to Bishop Barros.

Furthermore, in a country which is shortly expected to approve same-sex civil union legislation, the issue has assumed a political dimension.