Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez publicly admitted on Sunday that mistakes were made in the handling of a case involving a priest accused of sexually abusing a minor in 2019.
Archbishop Fernandez (pictured) has been accused by critics of trying to protect the priest.
Fernandez vehemently denies the allegations.
However, in an interview after conducting Mass in La Plata, Argentina, Fernandez admitted that he would approach the situation differently if given the chance.
“I would definitely act very differently today and definitely my performance was lacking,” he told the Associated Press.
Francis appointed Fernandez Archbishop of La Plata in 2018 and most recently appointed Fernandez as the Holy See’s Commissioner for Faith and Doctrine.
This role includes ensuring doctrinal orthodoxy and addressing allegations of sexual abuse against clergy.
In addition, Fernandez was awarded the title of cardinal on Sunday, along with several other religious figures.
BishopAccountability.org, a US-based organization that specializes in documenting abuse in the Catholic Church, has raised concerns about Fernandez’s appointment as bishop general.
The group claims Fernandez has dismissed a lawsuit against Eduardo Lorenzo, a priest of the Archdiocese of La Plata, accused of child abuse.
Victims could have been more considerate
In response to the criticism, Fernandez issued a statement to the Associated Press on Monday, accusing him of expressing distrust of the allegations.
He claimed that steps were taken to keep the priest away from the alleged victims.
However, Fernandez expressed self-criticism during an interview, blaming his actions on his lack of experience in other dioceses after becoming Archbishop of La Plata in 2018.
He admitted that the church’s procedures for handling allegations of clergy abuse weren’t as clear at the time.
Fernandez conceded that he could have been more attentive to the victims and should have taken action sooner to remove Lorenzo from the priesthood while the investigation was ongoing.
“I can’t say I committed a crime or did anything against the system of the time, but I could have been a better father, a better pastor, and a more capable person. Of course I know that. I am,” he told the Associated Press.
showed support for the accused priest
Ann Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, expressed skepticism about Fernandez’s statements, arguing that claims of ignorance were not credible.
Noting that Fernandez has repeatedly expressed support for the accused priest, Doyle said, if Fernandez genuinely regrets his handling of the case, why should Lorenzo’s victims? I wondered if I hadn’t reached out.
Known as the “Papal Theologian” for his role as a close advisor to Pope Francis, Fernandez is credited with drafting several important documents published by the Pope.
Fernandez said he had discussed the criticism of Lorenzo’s case with the pope and that Francis had advised him to explain exactly what happened.
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https://cathnews.co.nz/2023/07/13/archbishop-fernandez-admits-mistakes-handling-priest-sexual-abuse-case/ Archbishop Fernandez admits error in priest abuse case