Chilean court orders church to pay compensation to abuse survivors

Catholic News Service

March 28, 2019

By Junno Arocho Esteves

A Chilean appeals court ruled in favor of three survivors of abuse by former priest Fernando Karadima and ordered the Catholic Church to pay damages.

In a decision announced March 27, the court ordered the church to pay 100 million pesos (about US$147,000) for “moral damages” to each of the survivors: Juan Carlos Cruz, José Andrés Murillo and James Hamilton.

According the ruling, the appeals court said that “the omissions and the errors of the leadership of the Catholic Church” in Chile proved the church had been “negligent in its conduct in terms that can be qualified as a cover-up that gave way to the configuration of a civil offense.”

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Known as an influential and charismatic priest, Karadima founded a Catholic Action group in a wealthy Santiago parish and drew hundreds of young men to the priesthood.

However, several former seminarians from the parish revealed in 2010 that the former Chilean priest sexually abused them and other members of the parish community for years. One year later, Karadima was sentenced by the Vatican to a life of prayer and penance after he was found guilty of sexual abuse.

Pope Francis expelled Karadima from the priesthood in late September.

The court pointed to documents that confirmed that both former archbishops of Santiago, Cardinals Francisco Javier Errázuriz and Ricardo Ezzati, were aware of and did not properly investigate the allegations against Karadima.

Citing the definition of the word “cover-up” as being “responsible for concealing a crime,” the court ruled that the definition applies to “the behavior of Cardinals Errázuriz and Ezzatti and other ecclesiastical authorities.”

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