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Abuse Survivor On How Catholic Church Will Make Good On Pope's Vow


Pope Francis yesterday declared an all-out battle on abuse in the Catholic Church, saying it must be erased from the face of the Earth. Today the bishops and abuse survivors who went to Rome for the historic summit have returned to their homes around the world, and the question remains. How will the church make good on the pope's promise? We're going to put that question now to somebody who is at that summit. Juan Carlos Cruz is a survivor of abuse in the Catholic Church. Thank you so much for joining us.

JUAN CARLOS CRUZ: Thank you, Ari, for having me.

SHAPIRO: Let me first ask what your big takeaway from this summit was. How are you feeling now that it's over?

CRUZ: You know, I never expected that after three days, it was going to be earth-shattering change immediate, you know, like many people unfortunately expected. I was lucky to be asked by the pope to organize a meeting before the summit on Wednesday with survivors from all over the world. And then my testimony opened the whole summit. And, you know, it was good because they never edited anything. There was nothing I could not say. So, you know, there's people that are happier, people that are not so happy. But I'm optimistic, and I want to keep hope that there will be things happening.

SHAPIRO: You say you're optimistic and hopeful. Did you hear anything from Church leaders that struck you as new, as definitive, as a sign that things will move in a different direction?

CRUZ: So I've had the opportunity to speak with Pope Francis several times, and I'm very respectful. But I tell him I feel like it is. And Pope Francis of 2017 is not Pope Francis of 2019. He's a man that has been able to listen and change and understand better. What I worry about are the bishops that go back home and, you know, remain the same. And that's my biggest worry.

SHAPIRO: The pope urged bishops and abusive clerics to hold themselves accountable. Do you think that sort of self-accountability will do what needs to be done here?

CRUZ: No, I don't think it works. You know, unfortunately we've had too many examples, mine included in Chile, of bishops that can see the worst crimes, yet they cover it up and don't do the right thing and disappear documents. And so I know that there's been a lot more awareness and accountability, but it hasn't shown that this self-policing works.

SHAPIRO: So if the pope is urging people to self-police and you don't believe that works, why are you hopeful and optimistic?

CRUZ: I believe that there's bishops that take this very seriously, and I believe that more we're going to see in the following days things that will, yes, allow self-policing, but at the same time, they'll be ways of holding bishops around the world accountable for their actions. And so if someone doesn't do what's the right thing, I'm hopeful that they put a process in place that will show up and say, this particular bishop is not doing, and they'll be very strict with him, I'm hoping.

SHAPIRO: Is that based on something that you've heard in your conversations with the pope and other church leaders, or is that just sort of a wish that you have?

CRUZ: No, it's based on conversations that I've had with other church leaders. And I can't tell you exactly what things are coming up. I'm hopeful that they make bishops work with local law enforcement to hold them accountable also in civil society and civil law, not just canon law, and a bunch of other things. It's a combination of things that we've spoke about and others that I know they're working on.

SHAPIRO: We've heard from a lot of survivors who've told us that they have lost faith in the church as a result of this crisis. Have you?

CRUZ: You know, no, I have not. I'm Catholic, and I remain Catholic. And I am not going to let them win. Now, I have my days, Ari, and I'm better one day and not-so-fine the other, but it's so worth it, though. When you feel you are able to help one person to deal with this horror, it makes it so much better for me as well.

SHAPIRO: Juan Carlos Cruz, thank you so much for speaking with us.

CRUZ: Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: He's a survivor who was in Rome for the summit on abuse in the Catholic Church, and he joined us from Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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