VATICAN CITY — Four members of Pope Francis' sex abuse advisory commission headed to Rome on Sunday to voice their concerns in person about Francis' appointment of a Chilean bishop accused of covering up for the country's most notorious molester.
Commission member Marie Collins said she and three other commission members would meet later Sunday with Francis' point-man on abuse, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, and ask him to relay their concerns to the pope about the appointment of Juan Barros as bishop of Osorno.
Victims of Chile's most notorious abuser, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, say Barros knew of and even witnessed Karadima's abuse decades ago when he was a protege of the charismatic Karadima, who was sanctioned by the Vatican in 2011 for sexually abusing minors.
Collins said that if Barros doesn't appreciate that Karadima's behavior then was inappropriate, "then he doesn't understand child abuse."
"And if he doesn't understand child abuse," she continued, "there's a child protection concern about him being in charge of a diocese."
Barros, the former chaplain of Chile's armed forces, has faced unprecedented popular and ecclesial opposition ever since he was named in January. More than 1,300 church members in Osorno, along with some 30 diocesan priests and 51 of Chile's 120 members of Parliament, sent letters to Francis urging him to rescind the appointment.
Barros has denied wrongdoing and insisted he didn't know about the abuse until reading 2010 news reports. The Vatican has defended the appointment by saying there were no "objective reasons" to scuttle it.
Collins, herself a survivor of abuse, says the victims' claims that Barros witnessed inappropriate behavior and did nothing — as well as the unprecedented opposition his appointment has created — makes him unfit and likely unable to lead.
Already, a recent meeting between Barros and angry parishioners fell apart when Barros showed up with two body guards and police dogs, security measures taken after his installation ceremony was marred by violent protests inside the cathedral.
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