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Friday, May 20, 2022

Juan Carlos Cruz: “There are many victims of the Church who still do not have justice” | INTERVIEW

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Juan Carlos Cruz was 15 years old when he met Fernando Karadima. At 46, he was only able to publicly recount the horror he experienced with the most prestigious priest in Chile, a future saint and the greatest sexual predator of the Catholic Church in that country.

READ ALSO | “We do not have any kind of justice”: six years of complaints against the Sodalicio without punishment

His voice and that of two other survivors allowed the Holy See to acknowledge the abuses and issue a sentence – to “a life of prayer and penance” – and his future expulsion from the priesthood. Despite everything, Karadima never went to prison.

Today, Cruz is a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to try to remedy impunity and above all so that no one has to wait three decades to begin to heal, or at least try, the painful marks of the damage.

Last Friday he arrived in Lima last Friday to participate in a discussion about abuses in religious organizations regarding the play San Bartolo at Teatro La Plaza, based on the Sodalicio case.

—Why has it been so easy for abuses to be committed without anything happening?

Organizations such as the Sodalicio act as criminal organizations that take refuge in the good will of the government to protect religious or charitable institutions and in their own canon law. They are waterproof, nothing comes out, there is a lot of cover up. For years they have lived in impunity until victims from all over the world have begun to speak out. When I started to speak, about 10 years ago, it was very difficult, now there is a greater awareness in the world with a Pope Francis who is doing things. That is why the organizations are terrified, the Berlin wall around them is breaking down.

—What coincidences do you find in the Sodalicio and Karadima cases?

It’s a pattern: corruption, money and sex. Also persecution to the one who denounces. Paola Ugaz and Pedro Salinas, [autores de “Mitad monjes, mitad soldados”] or Martín López de Romaña, who tells his testimony in his book “The Invisible Cage”, have suffered horrors because no one has believed them or because the Sodalicio has taken it upon themselves to destroy their lives. It’s the same thing that happened with us. The disqualification so that no one believes them.

The case of the abuses committed by Karadima is one of the most emblematic in Chile due to the influence of the priest in the Church.  (EFE)
The case of the abuses committed by Karadima is one of the most emblematic in Chile due to the influence of the priest in the Church. (EFE)

-For many it has been difficult to believe that “good” people commit abuse…

Karadima was considered the future saint of Chile, nobody believed the B side, German Doig [número dos del Sodalicio] they wanted to beatify him. Figari is in a gilt cage in Rome. This happens because there is an organization that covers each other.

—How is political and economic power linked in these complaints?

There is something called clericalism that is a true cancer of the Church and Pope Francis constantly talks about it. The priest is not touched, less so the bishop, they own the absolute truth, it is the image they want to give. There is also a lot of corruption, they are getting closer to the upper social classes where there is money and they have their defenders.

-You mentioned that now there is more talk, but the cases continue to occur…

The Church has the culture of abuse and the culture of cover-up. We have gone against the culture of abuse. I see Pope Francis doing things, I am lucky enough to speak with him often, in Lima they have Archbishop Carlos Castillo who is a fantastic man. There are outbreaks of great hope, but things continue to happen or are still hidden. I thank the media that have given the victims a platform so that they can tell their truths and bring the horror stories to light.

—What is the commission you are a member looking for?

It is a moment of radical change. We don’t get anything out of starting to talk about the church of the future if we don’t remedy the problems of justice. Our commission has to be like a beacon of light for the victims and for many people in the same Church, bishops, priests, who want to do the right thing. Unfortunately, despite all the good intentions and what Pope Francis is doing, to which I can attest, the problem is that he cannot do everything if those around him do not accompany him.

Luis Fernando Figari, founder of the Christian Life Society, has been denounced for sexual, physical and psychological abuse.  In 2017 it became known that he lives in a retreat in Rome.  (Photo: El Comercio Archive)
Luis Fernando Figari, founder of the Christian Life Society, has been denounced for sexual, physical and psychological abuse. In 2017 it became known that he lives in a retreat in Rome. (Photo: El Comercio Archive)

-Do not depend on one person

Carlos Castillo is doing great things, but he can’t change everything from one day to the next if he doesn’t have others changing together. That is why we must be very direct when bishops, priests or congregations are not doing well. Yes, I think a lot has been done, but there is still a long way to go. There are many victims of the Church who have no justice or reparation while sexual abuse and abuse of conscience destroys their lives.

“Do you think you can really make amends to a victim?”

I have been abused and I feel that I have been able to repair my life, but no one who has been abused is the same. There are people who cannot be healed because their lives were destroyed, others who committed suicide. What is clear is that abuse destroys and that those who commit it should be in jail, not in a golden retreat of penance and prayer.

-What would you say to a person who is in the process of denouncing and who is wondering if it is worth enduring what will come?

There has to be a dose of bravery. I take my hat off to Pedro, Paola and all those who denounce, it moves me from the heart how they take it seriously despite the barbarities they are experiencing, the judicial persecution against them. The pope has told me that he will always support Paola and Pedro. This is why a lot of hard leather is needed. On the other hand, it is very understandable that there are people who do not dare and it is their right. Monsters like the ones in the Sodalicio do not allow people who have suffered the unspeakable to come out and speak, monsters with their mafia tactics of intimidation prevent journalists from citing the truth.

-What did you find the work?

It is a gem and they are jumping lives. Telling about this situation people who see dare to speak and get ahead. That is saving lives.

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