Priest jailed for sex abuse

May 14, 2011

Santiago - A Chilean priest was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday for sexually abusing minors, while another priest was arrested on similar charges, amid other high-profile cases shaking this predominantly Roman Catholic country.

Ricardo Munoz was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a court in Melipilla, located 60 kilometres west of Santiago.

Evidence at trial revealed that Munoz, a pastor at a local church, sexually abused four minors, ages 16 and 17, and paid them money.

Meanwhile, Audin Araya allegedly abused three minors at a Catholic school in the city of Concepcion, located 500 kilometres south of Santiago.

The Concepcion court ordered Araya's arrest Friday after a hearing to formalise charges of sexual abuse of students aged between 15 and 17 that allegedly took place in 2008, when Araya was rector of a local high school.

Araya will undergo a psychiatric examination, prosecutor Carlos Palma said.

Araya's attorney, Marcelo Torres, said the allegations “are not clear” and are “contradictory.”

The cases come at a difficult time for the Chilean Catholic Church, which on April 8 issued a public apology for sexual abuse by paedophile priests, taking the blame for a lack of diligence in investigating victim complaints.

Two influential Catholic figures already are under investigation: priest Fernando Karadina, among the most influential priests in the country; and Sister Paula (Isabel Margarita Lagos), the former mother superior of the Ursulinas sisterhood.

Karadina, 80, is suspected of abusing minors over a period of 20 years when he was in charge of an upscale Santiago parish.

The Vatican earlier this year found him guilty of sexually abusing children and “sentenced” him to a life of prayer and penitence, but Chile reopened a case against him.

An inquiry was launched last year after allegations by five adults who were members of the Chilean church set up by Karadina.

Judges decided not to pursue the case, but an appeals court last month found that the initial inquiry had not been properly investigated.

Karadina remains held at a parish house, according to the Vatican, but Sister Paula travelled to Germany before allegations against her became public.

The Catholic Church carries great influence in Chile, where 70 percent of the country's 17 million people are Roman Catholic. - Sapa-AFP


















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