Chile’s Catholic Church Investigates Abuser’s Right-hand Man
By Lee Purvey
August 31, 2012
Chile’s Catholic Church announced Thursday its investigation of Father Juan Esteban Morales, the former parish priest of Santiago’s El Bosque neighborhood and one-time confidant of disgraced rector Fernando Karadima, for unspecified “abuses of authority.” The investigation has been ongoing for more than three months.
|Fernando Karadima was banned for life from the Catholic Church after being convicted for pedophilia. Photo courtesy of Fernando Karadima/Facebook.|
Santiago Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati ordered the investigation on May 11 after receiving two complaints regarding Morales’ conduct.
“The objective (of the investigation) is determining the objectivity and the nature of the facts described,” the statement said.
Morales was a close associate of Fernando Karadima, a Chilean priest found guilty by the Catholic Church in 2011 of abusing three former parishioners. Morales succeeded Karadima as the rector of El Bosque parish starting in September 2006. Karadima’s priesthood was suspended for life by the church, though he was never convicted by a criminal court.
“(Morales) always was, and always has been, an unconditional absolute of Karadima,” journalist and Karadima biographer Maria Olivia Monckeberg told Terra.
While the church did not specify the nature of the offenses Morales is accused of, Monckeberg said it was for his failure to report the abuses in the Karadima scandal.
“For me, at least, when I investigated this and by my conversations with the victims, it’s unthinkable that Morales didn’t know (about the abuses),” Monckeberg said. “In fact, he should have known since the time of the first abuses of James Hamilton because he was there in that environment.”
Hamilton, the first of Karadima’s victims, was 17 and a member of the priest’s Catholic Action youth movement in 1983 when the abuses began.
Another of Karadima’s victims, Juan Carlos Cruz, expressed his approval of the investigation, calling it a “new phase in the Catholic Church,” according to Radio Bio Bio.
“There has been an incredible abuse of power and hopefully they will continue (with an investigation of) the accessory bishops,” Cruz told La Tercera.
The church’s statement revealed that Morales continues in his position as priest, although “without holding ecclesiastical duties,” and lives in the Archbishop’s House of Clergy.
Morales is currently out of the country for “family reasons,” but is set to return in late September.