As recently as last month
, the Pope had said he's seen no evidence that a Chilean cleric whom he later made a bishop had witnessed a priest abusing teenagers.
But Francis received a letter detailing exactly that in 2015, according to the author of the letter and a former member of the Vatican's Commission for the Protection of Minors. It was hand-delivered to him, the two people say, by one of his most trusted advisers, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston.
A spokesman for O'Malley referred all questions to the Vatican, which declined to comment.
The Pope's receipt of the letter was first reported by The Associated Press on Monday. The letter's author, Juan Carlos Cruz, has provided a copy to CNN. In it, he details years of abuse, witnessed, Cruz says, by the man Pope Francis later made a bishop, Juan Barros.
"The Pope goes around the world apologizing for the sexual abuse of children," Cruz told CNN, "but he doesn't do a thing."
This is not the first time the Pope has been accused of having a "blind spot" on sexual abuse
The commission charged with protecting young people, unveiled in 2015 with great fanfare, has languished since December when its term expired. The Vatican says new members are being vetted.
But some of the commission's top recommendations, including a tribunal for bishops accused of covering up sex crimes, have been nixed by Vatican officials, said Marie Collins, a former member of the commission. Collins, an abuse survivor, quit the commission last year in frustration over the Vatican's inaction.
Francis also appointed an Australian cardinal to a powerful Vatican post despite concerns from victims' groups. Cardinal George Pell is now on trial on sexual assault charges
in his native Australia.
"The status quo is not working," the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and expert on the Vatican, wrote in a recent column for Religion News Service
"Pope Francis needs to make dramatic changes in the way in which the Vatican investigates crimes, especially those by bishops."
'A witness to all of this'
"Holy Father, I decided to write you this letter because I'm tired of fighting, crying and suffering."
That's how Cruz, who now lives in Philadelphia, opened his eight-page letter to the Pope.
In the letter, Cruz details years of abuse at the hands of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, a charismatic and powerful figure in the Chilean church. The Vatican removed Karadima from active ministry in 2011 after finding the priest guilty of child sex abuse.
Barros "was a witness to all of this I have told you," Cruz writes in his letter to the Pope.
Cruz said O'Malley told him he had handed the letter to Pope Francis in 2015. O'Malley also told the Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he led, that he had personally delivered Cruz's letter to the Pope two years ago, said Collins.
Barros has not been accused of sexual abuse and has denied knowing about Karadima's crimes. A representative for Barros has not replied to requests for comment.
In a statement dated January 30, Barros' diocese said, "The Bishop ... expressed that he is taking everything related to the Pope with faith and joy, asking God for the truth to shine through and especially invoking the Virgin Mary so everyone can reach peace."
Collins said it was a mistake for Pope Francis to appoint Barros a bishop in 2015.
"If he saw what was happening and didn't seem to recognize it as abuse, then putting him in charge of a diocese where he oversees the safety of children is a problem."
In a trip to Chile