ROME — Things keep getting worse for Pope Francis.
Late last month, the pope reiterated his defense of a Chilean bishop, contending that he had never received any complaints that the prelate knew of abuse by the country’s most notorious pedophile priest.
But on Monday, The Associated Press reported that the pope personally received an eight-page letter in 2015 from one of the victims. The letter explicitly detailed abuses the victim said were witnessed by other clerics, including Juan Barros Madrid, who was appointed bishop of Osorno, Chile, that year.
The report that one of the pope’s top advisers had personally handed him the letter has revived accusations by advocates for abuse victims that the 81-year-old pontiff cannot, or will not, understand an issue that has long roiled the Roman Catholic Church.
“There is what you might call a willful blindness,” said Peter Saunders, a former member of the pope’s Commission for the Protection of Minors, whose mandate expired in December. “It’s almost angry unwillingness to accept what’s in front of him, because to acknowledge it is to acknowledge that the church still has to clean up its act. He’s been behaving like a spouse who is told that their spouse is abusing their kids, and can’t believe it.”