September 14, 2015 at 5:12 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Chilean cardinals block gay man’s nomination to sex abuse commission

Juan Carlos Cruz, gay news, Washington Blade

Juan Carlos Cruz, a gay Chilean man, says a Catholic priest in the South American country sexually abused him for eight years in the 1980s. The leaders of the country’s Roman Catholic church blocked his nomination to a Vatican commission established to respond to clergy sex abuse. (Photo courtesy of Juan Carlos Cruz)

Emails leaked to a Chilean newspaper show two cardinals conspired to prevent a gay man from being named to a sex abuse commission that Pope Francis created.

El Mostrador on Sept. 9 published an email that Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, the archbishop of Santiago, wrote to his predecessor, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, on June 28, 2014, that concludes Juan Carlos Cruz’s nomination to the commission “would be extremely serious for the Chilean (Roman Catholic) church.”

Errázuriz — one of the eight cardinals who advises Francis on reforming the Curia that oversees the church — told Ezzati in a July 1, 2014, email that it “is clear” to the pope “that he (Cruz) should not be nominated.”

“It is already clear that this name will not be a member of the commission,” wrote Errázuriz in a July 3, 2014, email to Ezzati.

Cruz, who now lives in Philadelphia and is the head of global communications for DuPont Crop Protection in Delaware, is among the hundreds of people who Rev. Fernando Karadima sexually abused in his parish in El Bosque, a wealthy neighborhood in the Chilean capital, over more than three decades.

José Murillo in 2003 said that Karadima had abused him, but Errázuriz ignored the allegations. The former Santiago archbishop in June 2010 notified the Vatican of the claims after Cruz, Murillo and James Hamilton, another man who Karadima abused, went public.

Errázuriz during the proceedings acknowledged he did not investigate the allegations against Karadima because he did not believe them, but a Chilean court ruled the priest could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired. A judge that a Chilean appeals court appointed upheld the aforementioned ruling, but concluded in an 84-page decision concluded the abuse against the three men had taken place.

The Vatican in 2011 sanctioned Karadima to what the Associated Press described as a “lifetime of penance and prayer” for the abuse he committed.

Cardinals refer to Cruz as ‘serpent’

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston chairs the commission.

Marie Collins, an Irish sexual abuse victim who is a founding member of the commission, last year nominated Cruz.

Errázuriz in an April 21, 2013, email to Ezzati referred to Cruz as “the serpent” after they learned of his nomination.

“He is going to falsify the truth,” wrote Errázuriz.

Cruz told the Washington Blade on Friday during a telephone interview from Philadelphia before boarding a flight to Chile that he did not know that Collins had nominated him to the commission until El Mostrador published the emails between Errázuriz and Ezzati.

“That’s how shrewd and sneaky that they are,” Cruz told the Blade.

El Mostrador also published emails between Ezzati and Errázuriz that show they identified cardinals who could help them prevent Cruz from speaking to a group of English-speaking bishops in Rome about sex abuse.

Cruz not only did not speak at the gathering, but he did not receive an invitation to attend.

“These two cardinals (Errázuriz and Ezzati) got wind of that and talked to friends in Rome,” Cruz told the Blade.

The AP reported the Santiago archdiocese has confirmed the emails’ authenticity.

The emails between Errázuriz and Ezzati that El Mostrador published have sparked widespread outrage throughout Chile.

Jaime Parada, a gay councilman in the wealthy Santiago neighborhood of Providencia, is among the politicians who have called upon Ezzati to cancel his annual thanksgiving Mass — known as “Te Deum” in Latin — that coincides with Chile’s independence day on Sept. 18. Former Chilean President Eduardo Frei and others have urged the archbishop of Santiago to resign.

Karadima had ‘stellar reputation’ among Santiago elite

Cruz told the Blade that friends of his family recommended that he meet with Karadima — a charismatic priest who supported then-Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet — after his father died when he was 15. Cruz said his mother didn’t like Karadima “that much, but (his family) wouldn’t think twice about not sending me there because weird things happened.”

“He had this stellar reputation and nobody would doubt that it would help me,” said Cruz.

Cruz said Karadima began abusing him in the early 1980s after he told him about “indiscretions” during confession.

Cruz told the Blade that he “realized” he was gay when he was a teenager. He said that he thought if he “prayed a lot, it would go away.”

“Obviously it just got terribly worse,” said Cruz. “These predators know the buttons to push on everybody. My button was that if I said anything he would tell everybody that I was gay and I would never find a job and my life would be ruined.”

“I thought I had to let him do all these things because I thought it was sort of let’s say the rent I had to pay for my misbehavior,” he added. “I was paralyzed.”

Cruz said the abuse continued for nearly a decade, which included four years during which he was studying to become a priest.

Church said Cruz ‘liked’ abuse

Cruz told the Blade that he, Murillo and Hamilton testified before Errázuriz during the proceedings in their criminal case. Cruz said the then-archbishop “wanted to discard me because he said no, Juan Carlos Cruz is not a victim.”

“He’s a gay and he liked it,” said Cruz, referring to Errázuriz’s comments. “They didn’t want to consider me a victim because I was gay and the message was that I probably liked that.”

Cruz said that Chilean newspaper then published a headline that said he “had seduced Karadima.”

Cruz was a successful journalist at the time, but he decided to move to the U.S. to escape what he described as the pressure he was facing from Karadima and the church.

“Call me coward, call me whatever,” Cruz told the Blade. “I just couldn’t bear with the situation of being gay, having Karadima threatening me, thinking that my career could be over.”

Cruz said his lawyer, Juan Pablo Hermosilla, told him after their initial conference call shortly before they formally accused Karadima that the church “is going to drag you through the mud because you’re gay.”

“You’re at a disadvantage (compared to) the others because you’re gay and they’ll have more fodder to say things about you,” an emotional Cruz told the Blade, referring to his lawyer’s comments. “I have to do this because he’s abusing other people and my story can help others.”

Cruz said his homosexuality was the first thing to become public after he, Murillo and Hamilton brought charges against Karadima.

“The gay issue came up several times when it really doesn’t matter,” said Cruz. “It’s like when they tell women they get raped because they were wearing a skirt that was too short and they tempted the rapist. Nobody, nobody, nobody deserves to be abused: Gay, straight, woman, man, young, old, nobody.”

Cruz, Murillo and Hamilton in 2013 brought a civil case against Errázuriz and Ezzati and the Archdiocese of Santiago.

The three men in their lawsuit are asking for equivalent of $600,000 and a public apology from the church over the cover-up. Their lawyer is expected to begin interviewing cardinals, bishops and other potential witnesses next week.

“We want them to acknowledge that they knew that the abuse was happening and that they looked the other way, not only to us but to others,” Cruz told the Blade.

Francis ‘bringing reform’ to church, despite controversial appointments

Cruz spoke with the Blade less than two weeks before Francis’ arrival in the U.S.

He described the Argentine-born pontiff as a “man that is bringing reform to the church.” Cruz said he nevertheless remains disappointed over Francis’ appointments that include naming Errázuriz as one of his top advisors.

“I had a lot of hope in him,” said Cruz.

Cruz told the Blade that he will continue to speak out against sex abuse within the church.

He traveled to the Chilean city of Osorno earlier this month to meet with local parishioners who oppose Francis’ decision to appoint Juan Barros — a bishop with close ties to Karadima who helped cover up the sexual abuse allegations — as the head of the local diocese.

Cruz said hundreds of people greeted him at the airport when his flight from Santiago landed.

He told the Blade that he met with clergy, deacons and parishioners to discuss the controversy over Barros’ ordination. Cruz also attended a “crowded” Mass with them before returning to Santiago.

Cruz told the Blade that two bishops from the Chilean Conference of Bishops traveled to Osorno and told Catholic officials that it was “unacceptable” to meet with him.

“These people are standing strong and it’s just incredible,” said Cruz. “When I see these emails, I was shocked and sad and thought that maybe on the commission I could bring another perspective.”

“At the same time I’m encouraged by all these wonderful people that are doing incredible things and not letting these bad bishops, these criminals like in old times,” he added. “That has changed.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

3 Comments
  • Thankyou for this excellent article about how poorly Juan Carlos Cruz is being treated by some cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church. Juan Carlos is a friend of mine. I have great respect for him. There is something very evil at the core of the Church, when the hierarchy continue to cover-up for their sexual predator clergy and re-victimize the victims of clergy sexual abuse. I admire Juan Carlos for his courage in telling his story. As a physician, I have met many who have been sexually abused by priests, bishops, brothers, nuns. Juan Carlos would be a great addition to the papal commission, if the pope and bishops were really interested in doing the right thing, in making themselves accountable both to secular law enforcement and to God, in my view.

  • If he raped a child, they’d hide and protect him……..

  • The “behind the scenes” RC hierarchy, not only in Chile but worldwide, harbors and continues to sponsor hostile anti-Gay attitudes and activities no better than those funded and produced by such American bigots like Mike Huckabee and the Family Research Counsel.

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