Chile’s Jesuits confess ‘crimes, negligence and errors’ on sex abuse

Crux [Denver CO]

May 29, 2021

By Inés San Martín

In an internal report made public this week, the Jesuits of Chile acknowledge that based on accusations and investigations that emerged over a fifteen-year period, at least 64 people have been sexually abused by 11 Jesuit priests in the country.

Among those victims were 34 minors, both boys and girls.

The report compiles investigations carried out by the Jesuits in Chile between 2005 and 2020, meaning, five years before explosive revelations against former priest Fernando Karadima, found guilty of abusing seminarians, including minors, in 2011.

Since the first allegations were made by three of his survivors against Karadima in 2010, the Catholic Church in Chile has been embroiled in a series of allegations of both sexual abuse of minors and cover up of the crimes by bishops and other members of the hierarchy. Back in 2018, seeing the magnitude of the allegations, Pope Francis summoned the Chilean bishops to Rome and accepted the resignation of 30 percent of the episcopacy.

Though the pontiff, who doubted claims made by Chilean survivors for several years, acknowledged that he had been “part of the problem” when it comes to cleaning the local Church, no explanation was ever given by the Vatican as to why so many bishops were replaced, despite several of them having been accused of both abusing minors and seminarians, and of covering up for abusive priests.

The report published by the Center for Abuse Prevention and Reparation (CPR) of the Society of Jesus indicates that a total of 17 Jesuits were investigated and faced canonical processes for allegations of abuse in a span of 15 years. The report notes that 11 of those priests were found guilty of abusing 34 children and 30 adults.

The names of the priests found guilty who were alive at the moment of the allegations and as such faced a canonical process, are included in the report.

Of the eleven priests, nine are responsible for “abusive situations of sexual connotation” of the 34 child victims, while five committed “sexual abuse” and “manipulation of conscience” of 30 adults, according to the report.

The document, available on the website of the Chilean Jesuits, highlights the name of the deceased and once beloved former leader of this congregation, Father Renato Poblete, who has been found guilty of sexually abusing four children and 19 adults, starting in 1960 and continuing into the 2000s.

According to the report, the first allegation against Poblete came in 2019, nine years after his death. For over 20 years the Jesuit priest was the chaplain of Hogar de Cristo, the largest foundation helping vulnerable populations in the country.

Of the priests accused, five are deceased, three are no longer part of the Society of Jesus and three others “are currently under strict professional supervision plans” involving psychological help and restrictive measures such as the prohibition of approaching girls or boys.

The order reported that, since 2018, it has made available the background of the cases to Chile’s civil and criminal justice systems. The report also indicates that 31 of the victims have been economically compensated.

“Within our institution there have been serious crimes, negligence and errors that should never have occurred and, therefore, I want to apologize to all those who have been violated, damaged, to their families, to our communities, and to society as a whole,” said in the report Father Gabriel Roblero, provincial of the Society of Jesus in Chile.

The 32-page report is a continuation to one presented earlier this year on allegations against former Jesuit Jaime Guzmán, who was found guilty of sexual abuse.

Four of the victims of the ex-priest, all former students of Colegio San Ignacio El Bosque, went beyond the canonical process against the former priest, initiating a civil lawsuit against the Jesuits, who were forced not only to give a material compensation to the survivors but also to publish its report on Guzmán’s crimes.

The report presented is an attempt to go beyond that which was mandated when it comes to transparency over the abuses committed by Jesuits priests in Chile.

“Abuse within the Church and the Society of Jesus is a painful truth that we must recognize and confront,” Roblero wrote in the report. “For a long time, this was a reality that was not adequately addressed, there was denial, silence, minimization, blindness, invisibility and even, in some cases, attempts to justify what happened.”

“Today we are aware not only of the damage generated by the abuses committed by our colleagues to the victims, their families, their school and parish communities and society as a whole, but we have also become aware of the impact that these attitudes generated, increasing the pain of the victims, deepening their wounds and perpetuating a wrong and harmful institutional culture,” he wrote.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma