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Lay members of papal commission on abuse meet to voice concerns on Chilean bishop's appointment

April 13, 2015

Four lay members of a papal commission on sexual abuse have met with the panel’s chairman, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, to voice their concerns about the appointment of a Chilean bishop who has been charged with covering up abuse.

Bishop Juan Barros was installed as head of the Osorno diocese over angry protests, with his critics saying that the bishop had been aware of abuse committed by a notorious priest, Father Fernando Karadima.

The four lay members of the papal commission—Marie Collins, Peter Saunders, Catherine Bonnet, and Baroness Sheila Hollins—said that during their April 12 meeting Cardinal O’Malley had promised to “present their concerns to the Holy Father.” They acknowledged that their commission has no authority in particular cases, but said: “The process of appointing bishops who are committed to and have an understanding of child protection is of paramount importance.”

Marie Collins observed that Bishop Barros, who once worked closely with Karadima, should have recognized the signs of abuse. If he did not, she said, “then he doesn’t understand child abuse. And if he doesn’t understand child abuse, there’s a child-protection concern about him being in charge of a diocese.”

The Vatican, in a statement last week responding to protests from Chile, said that Pope Francis had examined the case and found no compelling reason against the Barros appointment.


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