The Catholic Church is at a pivotal stage in history, having just elected Pope Francis, the first Latin American Pope, at a critical moment in both the Church and the world. But the Church is also challenged by sexual abuse scandals and the thousands of innocent followers victimized by some of its members. We have witnessed how these guilty individuals have been and continue to be protected by the Church hierarchy. Sexual abuse scandals have tarnished the Church at every level and in countless communities around the world, distancing followers from the church and leaving them hopeless in their faith.
We are among those victims. We are James Hamilton and Juan Carlos Cruz. We were both abused by Fr. Fernando Karadima in Chile (which borders Argentina, where the new Pope is from). Ten years ago we went public with our accusations against Fr. Fernando Karadima -- accusations of sexual and psychological abuse dating from the 1980s until 2004 at the Chilean Archbishop’s office. Eventually, both the Vatican and the Chilean criminal justice system convicted Fr. Karadima. However, Chilean bishops and others in the region continue the cover-up to this day.
We ask that Pope Francis address sexual abuse within the Catholic Church and begin a journey in search of truth, justice, and reconciliation that brings reparation for the serious crimes committed. As the new Pope, he should be the first to assume responsibility for the damage done. That’s why we -- along with thousands of people of different creeds and backgrounds -- are calling on Pope Francis to convene a Truth and Reconciliation Committee to address this scourge that kills and oppresses thousands of victims and their families in the world.
Those who have caused this pain and have led the Church into a time of crisis should be identified, recognized and removed from their job alongside those who have covered up scandals or continue to cover them up today. The thousands of victims like us deserve justice and redress. This is the only way to heal these wounds and free us from the past. We must prevent others from having to go through this nightmare again and protect children and youth from predators and those who cover up for them.
Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs) have been used the world over to address systemic periods of violence, corruption, and abuse. In South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, the Czech Republic and countless other nations, TRCs have been used to make sure perpetrators of abuse are held accountable, to help victims seek justice, and to move institutions andentire societies toward reconciliation and healing.
Please stand with us and call on Pope Francis to take advantage of this rare moment in history, as his Papacy begins, to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the sex abuse scandal in the Church.
James Hamilton and Juan Carlos Cruz