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The Catholic Church has been drawn into a new scandal after senior clerics conspired to block a survivor from joining the Pope’s sex abuse advisory board, accusing him of “lies”.
Emails between the Archbishop of Santiago and his predecessor, leaked to Chile’s top online newspaper El Mostrador, show how they blocked Juan Carlos Cruz from the Holy See’s advisory board, set up by the Pope last year to help create a climate of greater accountability.
Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati and his predecessor Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz were both concerned that if details of the abuse emerged the Church would be damaged as a result. “I hope we can prevent lies from finding space between those who belong to the same church,” Cardinal Ezzati wrote to Cardinal Errazuri.
Cruz was one of many boys abused by Father Fernando Karadima, one of the Church’s most notorious paedophiles. Karadima, who ran a parish in Santiago for six decades, has been ordered to spend the rest of his life in penance and prayer for his depraved abuse of young boys.
He was first reported for “improper” behaviour in 1984 but the letter was torn up. Ten years later an investigation was opened by the Church but stopped three years after that by Cardinal Errázuriz. In 2010 a civil criminal complaint was filed by four victims but thrown out by the courts in Chile. Finally, in 2011, he was found guilty of abusing minors by a Church investigation and prohibited from any public ministry ever again.
Cardinal Errázuriz, one of nine core advisers to Pope Francis, has admitted in court testimony that he failed to act on several allegations because he believed them to be untrue.
The Santiago archdiocese confirmed the leaked emails, from 2013 and 2014, were authentic.
Cardinal Ezzati has since spoken to La Tercera about his pain, bewilderment and helpessness at the making public of private email correspondence. He believed it had been done with the aim of creating confusion and discrediting the Church.
He said he will resist pressure to stand down from presiding at Chile’s ecumenical thanksgiving celebration of the nation’s independence, the Te Deum, due to take place this week.
He also said he was taking legal advice.
“All correspondence I send out my personal computer. I worry that are taken out of context emails because they were private conversations. What happened hurts us all, the victims, the country and the Church. The violation of private correspondence is illegal. We are evaluating internally what exactly happened. Once we know, we will determine what steps to take,” he said.
Marie Collins, an Irish survivor of abuse and a member of the Vatican sex abuse advisory board, had proposed Cruz. In an email to Associated Press she said: “Personally I am disgusted at the attitude displayed by these leaders in the church to the Pontifical Commission and to a survivor of abuse.”
Cardinal Ezzati was among 16 new cardinals sworn in at the Vatican earlier this year.
In his homily at the ceremony in Rome, Pope Francis said: “May all of us avoid, and help others to avoid, habits and ways of acting typical of a court: intrigue, gossip, cliques, favouritism and partiality.”