February 23, 2018
By Cassandra Garrison
To understand why Chile, one of Latin America’s most socially conservative nations, is losing faith in the Roman Catholic Church, visit Providencia, a middle-class area of Santiago coming to terms with a decades-old clergy sex abuse scandal.
Providencia is home to El Bosque, the former parish of priest Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty in a Vatican investigation in 2011 of abusing teenage boys over many years, spurring a chain of events leading to this week’s visit by a Vatican investigator.
A Chilean judge in the same year determined the Vatican’s canonical sentence was valid but Karadima was not prosecuted by the civil justice system because the statute of limitations had expired.
So many Chileans were shocked in 2015 when Pope Francis appointed as a bishop a clergyman accused of covering up for Karadima, and defended that choice in a visit to Chile last month.
Chile remains largely conservative on social issues. It only legalized divorce in 2004, making it one of the last countries in the world to do so. Chile’s ban on abortion, one of the strictest in the world, was lifted in 2017 for special circumstances only. Same-sex marriage remains illegal.
Yet El Bosque, like many other Chilean parishes, no longer has the large crowds attending Mass that it did in the 1970s and 1980s, when Karadima was a pillar of the Providencia community.
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