Tvn Special Report Showcases Sexual Abuse Charges against Catholic Priest

By Loretta Horst
Santiago Times
April 28, 2010

A special National Television (TVN) report Monday sharpened the national debate on the sexual abuse charges brought last Wednesday against a well-known and much revered Catholic priest, Fernando Karadima.

The TVN report showcased testimony by five (now) professionals who said they were sexually abused by Karadima as young men.

Rev. Karadima, 80, retired five years ago from the Church El Bosque in upscale Providencia, a district of Santiago. Over the decades Karadima has counselled many of Chile's most influential Catholic families and their children. He is now facing a double investigation, one by the Church and another by District Attorney Xavier Armendáriz.

The Church first received reports of Karadima's alleged misconduct in 2002, but only a cursory investigation resulted. The Church's investigation was reopened in 2005, when an alleged victim gave testimony that he and at least four other young men had been abused by Karadima.

Prosecutor Armendáriz, who filed criminal charges last week, is preparing to fly two of Karadima's alleged victims to Chile to take their testimony. One is Juan Carlos Cruz Chellew, 46, a journalist living in Chicago. The other is Jose Andrés Murillo Urrutia, 34, a philosopher doing a post-graduate degree in Sociology in France.

The retired priest contracted two additional lawyers over the weekend to defend him: Luis Ortiz Quiroga and Luis Arévalo, who will join Karadima's original lawyer Juan Pablo Bulnes in Karadima's defense.

The criminal complaints filed last Wednesday allege that Karadima molested at least four young men three while they were minors over at least two decades.

The legal and PR battle has already begun, with defense attorney Bulnes refusing to be interviewed for the TVN special report. Bulnes said one of the alleged victims - Juan Carlos Cruz Chellew lied in his statement to prosecutors because he was not a minor when the alleged abuse occurred.

The New York Times reported Cruz Chellew's testimony in a story that was published last week, together with allegations by 44-year old gastric surgeon James Hamilton. Hamilton and a fourth alleged victim, a 33-year-old lawyer, gave the original testimony that prompted the criminal lawsuit filed against Karadima.

Hamilton says Catholic Church officials failed to respond to the first official complaint he made against Karadima in 2004.

All four plaintiffs, together with a fifth alleged victim, 51-year old former alter boy Luis Lira, appeared in Monday's special TVN report.

Bulnes acknowledged that he failed in his attempts to stop the airing of the TVN report. The broadcast was the second most viewed program of the evening, beast out by Fiebre de Baile (Dance Fever) on the channel CHV the television station still owned by President Sebastian Pinera.

A separate team of local government officials has been tasked with finding other possible victims.

Fernando Karadima is expected to release a statement after the criminal investigation is completed.


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