Pope taps Chilean sex abuse whistleblower for Vatican panel


VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Wednesday named a Chilean man who helped uncover a clerical sex abuse scandal to a Vatican commission that advises the pontiff on how to protect children from pedophile clergy.

The Vatican said Juan Carlos Cruz is the latest member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Other members of the panel include a bishop, priest, nuns and laypersons.

Cruz and other survivors of a prominent Chilean predator priest were invited by the pope in 2018 to discuss their cases with him.

Decades of sex abuse scandals in many countries, including many involving church hierarchy who covered up for pedophile priests, have eroded the Catholic church’s credibility among the faithful.

Cruz was the main whistleblower on clerical abuse and coverup in his homeland, one of the more high-profile sex abuse scandals to stain the Catholic church’s reputation.

A gay man, Cruz has said he recounted to Francis how Chile’s bishops used his sexual orientation to try to discredit him. He said he has spoken to the pontiff of the pain those personal attacks caused him.

Whether the Vatican can convince the faithful it is sincerely committed to stopping pedophile priests and a widespread culture of coverups by high-ranking clergy is crucial to shoring up flagging trust by ordinary Catholics.

In 2017, frustrated by what she described as Vatican stonewalling, an Irish woman, Marie Collins, who was sexually abused by a priest when she was an adolescent, quit her post on the commission.

Collins was damning in her criticism of Vatican offices, saying some officials were refusing the pope’s instructions to reply to all correspondence from abuse survivors.

Last year, a long-awaited Vatican report about Theodore McCarrick, an influential U.S. cardinal defrocked by Francis after sex abuse reports, made it plain that the Holy See needs to re-think how the church protects the faithful from bishops and other hierarchy who wield authority with often scarce accountability.

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