Gerard O’ConnellMarch 24, 2021
In this April 24, 2018 file photo, clergy sex abuse survivor and victim's advocate Juan Carlos Cruz, from Chile, is interviewed by The Associated Press, outside the Vatican's St. Peter's Square, in Rome, Tuesday, April 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, file)

In a highly significant decision, Pope Francis has appointed Juan Carlos Cruz—a well-known Chilean victim of abuse, international advocate for survivors of clerical abuse and a gay man—as a member of the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors.

On Twitter, Mr. Cruz responded to the news, saying: “I am very grateful to Pope Francis @Pontifex for trusting me with this appointment. I deeply appreciate it. This renews my commitment to continue working to end the scourge of abuse and for so many survivors who still do not have justice.”

Mr. Cruz is not the first survivor to be a member of the commission. When the pope set up this body in December 2013, he appointed survivors, the best known of whom was Marie Collins of Ireland. The pope had praised Ms. Collins for her contributions to the panel, but in 2017 she resigned from the body, citing resistance to the group’s recommendations for reform from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The pope has emphasized the importance of having survivors on the commission, which is tasked with providing him with advice and making proposals on the best ways for the church to protect minors and vulnerable people in all its institutions.

Pope Francis has appointed Juan Carlos Cruz—a well-known Chilean victim of abuse, international advocate for survivors of clerical abuse and a gay man—to the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors.

But his nomination of Juan Carlos Cruz goes further, as Mr. Cruz is also a gay man who became internationally known for conducting an up-hill battle for justice for survivors. When Mr. Cruz, along with two other Chilean abuse victims—James Hamilton and Andrés Murillo—went public with allegations of abuse against the much-respected, charismatic Chilean priest Fernando Karadima they were disregarded and dismissed by the leadership of the Chilean church.

When Pope Francis visited Chile in 2018, he initially dismissed as “slander” the allegations from Mr. Cruz and the other victims that a bishop had covered up Karadima’s abuse.

Yet Juan Carlos and the others persisted, and finally Pope Francis sent Archbishop Charles Scicluna and the Rev. Jordi Bertomeu to Chile to carry out an investigation. Their findings changed the pope’s mind and led to massive upheaval in Chile. Pope Francis invited Mr. Cruz, Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Murillo to the Vatican, asked their forgiveness and encouraged them to continue their advocacy on behalf of the survivors of abuse and the protection of minors.

Less than a month later, the pope called the Chilean bishops to Rome, and after a three-day meeting, all 34 bishops offered their resignations. The pope has since accepted several of their resignations.

Mr. Cruz has not hesitated to speak out forcefully on what he sees as the failings of the church to bring justice to survivors.

The meeting with the pope in the Vatican had an impact on Mr. Cruz, who has become a strong supporter of Pope Francis and his efforts to bring justice to victims, to eliminate abuse in the church and to protect minors and vulnerable people.

At the same time, Mr. Cruz, who is a communications executive and lives in the United States, has not hesitated to speak out forcefully on what he sees as the failings of the church to bring justice to survivors and create a safe environment in all church institutions for minors and vulnerable adults.

Most recently, he publicly and strongly criticized the communication from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that declared that priests cannot bless same-sex unions. He said the leadership of the congregation is not in touch with the real world and is driving people away from the church. He called for a change in the leadership of the C.D.F.

Given this context, Pope Francis’ appointment of Juan Carlos Cruz to the commission takes on even greater significance.

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