One hundred fifteen cardinals started meeting on Tuesday at the Vatican in order to decide who will become the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church. At least sixteen of these cardinals come from Latin America and several of them have been dogged by allegations of abuse.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) last week named twelve cardinals who should neither vote for a pope or be elected as the next pontiff. Among those named on the “Dirty Dozen” blacklist are Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, Mexico’s Norberto Rivera and Leandro Sandri of Argentina.
According to SNAP, Maradiaga has turned a blind eye to possible abuse done by Honduran priests. He supposedly said that he would “prefer to go to jail before hurting any priests” even if they’ve been accused of abuse or other wrongdoing.
Maradiaga, who has not shied from providing to diplomatic support to ousted Honduran president Manuel Zapata and the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, reportedly blamed “Jewish interests” in the press for focusing so much on sex scandals in the church.
In addition the SNAP accused Rivera of covering up the abuses committed by several priests including Marcial Maciel, the late founder of the Legionnaires of Christ (LOC) who sexually abused minors and fathered three children with two women.
“(Rivera) not only ignored Mexican victims who were abused by Marcial Maciel and other priests, but he also slandered, defamed and accused them of being part of a plot against the Pope and the Church,” read part of a letter sent by SNAP to the Mexican catholic archdiocese.
Rivera replied to the SNAP’s accusations by denouncing the organization’s “propaganda” and pointing out that he has been cleared of accusations in U.S. courtrooms. Yet a SNAP member who was abused by a priest protected by Rivera vehemently disagreed:
“In order for the Church to pull out of the terrible crisis into which it has fallen because of the concealment of sexual abuse, those who have been accused must withdraw from the conclave,” said (Joaquin) Aguilar, Mexico director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
“All around the world, if someone is an accomplice of a crime, or faces charges or has been sentenced, their political rights are suspended, which means they can’t vote or be voted for,” he said. “Why doesn’t the Vatican do this, if it claims to be a moral institution? It is a disgrace for the Church. The accused scoff at the victims and their demands.”The SNAP also blamed Sandri for conspiring with Rivera and others to cover up Maciel’s abuses, which were revealed after the LOC founder died in 2008.
The SNAP also blacklisted Canadian cardinal Marc Ouellet who has served as head of the president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America for nearly three years. Nevertheless, a Quebec victims group has endorsed Ouellet with the hope that if he’s chosen then “1.2 billion Catholics will be made aware of the victimization of children here in Quebec by pedophile priests over several generations.”
Though not finger-pointed by the SNAP, Chile’s Francisco Javier Errázuriz has been accused in his country of failing to investigate sexual abuse committed against minors by the Rev. Fernando Karadima. (Details of the Karadima case can be seen in the video above).
"It's evident that he had knowledge of the complaints of abuse, which other priests believed to be true, and he did nothing," Juan Pablo Hermosilla, the victims' lawyer told the Associated Press. "He could have stopped this at the time, but for some reason he didn't. He looked the other way."
Errázuriz this week rejected the allegations against him and called them “unfair.”
In the meantime, the possibility that a Latin American will become the next Pope seem to be unlikely though British bookmaker William Hill has given Brazil’s Cardinal Odilo Scherer odds of 4-1. As we mentioned in last month, the 63-year-old Archbishop of São Paulo is relatively young and has moderate views that could attract disaffected Catholics.
According to some reports, the cardinals are rumored to be broken up into three camps including a “pastoral bloc” of North Americans, Germans and Brazilians. This could benefit Scherer who is considered by the Italian press as a “consensus candidate.”
The successor to the retired Pope Benedict XVI could be chosen as soon as Wednesday morning.
Video Source– YouTube via Al Jazeera English (Video uploaded in March 2012).
Online Sources – Too many to list!