Skip to Content
wgbh News


All Revved Up: What The Pope's 'Slander' Comment Means For Sexual Abuse Victims

Pope Francis talks with journalists during his flight from Lima, Peru, to Rome, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018.
Alessandra Tarantino/AP

During a trip to Chile last week, Pope Francis called accusations against a Chilean bishop for covering up sexual abuse slanderous.

These comments angered the victims of Reverend Fernando Karadima, who testified that Bishop Juan Barros was aware that Karadima was abusing them. For his crimes, the Vatican sentenced Karadima to a lifetime of prayer and penance. Barros received no punishment.

“There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny,” said Francis. "The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I’ll speak.”

On a return flight home, Francis apologized to Karadima's victims for his remarks.

"I apologize to them if I hurt them without realizing it, but it was a wound that I inflicted without meaning to," he said.

Reverends Irene Monroe and Emmett Price joined Boston Public Radio Monday for another edition of All Revved Up to talk about Pope Francis’ comments and their impact on sexual abuse victims throughout the world.

Both Price and Monroe condemned Francis’ remarks. They see this as a setback for the Pope, pointing to his self-proclaimed zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse and his reputation for being progressive.

“Whatever happened to compassionate listening versus a callous ear here?” asked Monroe. “I was just really surprised that the pope would really push back in that way ... you see more of him being a church bureaucrat and occasionally, a parish priest.”

“As the Pope, you can’t do this,” said Price. “This is horrific.”

Emmett G. Price III is a professor and founding executive director of the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Irene Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist and the Boston voice for Detour’s African American Heritage Trail. To hear the full “All Revved Up” segment, click on the audio player above.

WGBH News coverage is a resource provided by member-supported public radio. We can’t do it without you.