by Michael K. Lavers
Pope Francis has named a gay man to a commission that advises him on protecting children from pedophile priests.
Juan Carlos Cruz — a survivor of clerical sex abuse in Chile — was named to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. The Associated Press on Wednesday reported nuns, laypeople, a bishop and a priest are among the commission’s other members.
Cruz on Wednesday told the Blade during a telephone interview from Chile that Francis “decided he wanted me on the commission.”
“I’m very honored,” said Cruz. “I’m a survivor. I’m gay. I’m a lay person. I’m Catholic.”
Cruz is among the hundreds of people who a now-defrocked priest sexually abused in his parish in El Bosque, a wealthy neighborhood in the Chilean capital of Santiago over more than three decades.
Cruz and two other men — José Murillo and James Hamilton — in 2010 went public with their allegations. Two Chilean cardinals later blocked Cruz from being named to the same commission to which Francis appointed him.
Cruz is the first openly gay man and the first person from Latin America to serve on the commission.
“I had lots of hits against me, but he trusts me,” Cruz told the Blade, referring to Francis.
“I’m honored,” he added. “It just renews my commitment to change things from within, for survivors, for every person who feels disenfranchised from the church. This is a place where we all belong, with no adjectives.”
The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which defends Catholic teachings, earlier this month published a decree that said the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions. Cruz, who met Francis at the Vatican in 2018, is among those who sharply criticized the edict.
“As a Catholic, I would immediately ask for a change in the leadership of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which every day resembles that of the infamous Torquemada himself and not that of the pastors that Francis proposes to us,” Cruz told the Blade, referring to the mastermind of the Spanish Inquisition.
Cruz in response to Francis’ decision to name him to the commission reiterated he is “really, really honored and will do my best to live up to his appointment and the commitment that I have with the people who are expecting so much from me.”