New Scandal Rattles Chile's Catholic Church

Santiago Times
September 21, 2011

Photo courtesy of lizunamo2/Flickr

Karadima claims Archbishop of Santiago attempted to cover up accusations of sexual abuse.

Chilean priest Fernando Karadima last week alleged that Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, former Archbishop of Santiago, paid 500 million pesos (over US$ 1 million) to halt the publication of a book which accused Karadima of pedophilia.

Karadima made his charges to a Chilean judge who is investigating him for sexual abuse, after a Vatican investigation found him guilty of the same crime.karadimaPhoto courtesy of lizunamo2/Flickr

Chile’s Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIPER) broke the story on Friday. CIPER reported that Karadima -- who was still a practicing priest at the time -- claims the former Archbishop said that he did not believe the “rumors” about Karadima, and so made the alleged payment to “silence a lie.”

Karadima was for years one of Chile’s most influential and respected priests, with a congregation that consisted of many of the country’s upper class.

“If he made these statements in his defense, they certainly cannot be given any credibility,” Errazuriz told La Tercera, adding that he considered Karadima’s statements “unconscionable and defamatory.”

Accusations of sexual abuse against the priest stretch back at least three decades, but circulated for years without any church or judicial investigation.

In 2010 the Chilean justice system conducted a criminal investigation into the claims of abuse, but the case was dismissed in December after failing to establish proof of misconduct.

In January of this year the Vatican conducted an internal investigation into the claims and found Karadima guilty, sentencing the priest to a life of “prayer and penitence” while allowing him to retain his title. Karadima’s appeal of the decision was formally rejected.

After the Vatican’s guilty verdict, the Karadima case was reopened by the Chilean appeals court in March.

CIPER also released details from court proceeding that shed more light on the accusations against the priest, many of them in disturbing detail.

Francisco Gomez Barroilhet, the first witness to testify against Karadima, described the priest as a man obsessed with money. “Once I saw him empty the collection bags of the mass... throw the bills in the air and say, ‘To think that all of this money is mine.”

He also claimed that Karadima had a “disconcerting” custom of “patting people in the area of their genitals’ and ‘kissing very close to the mouth, so that you had to turn your face away.”

Almost a hundred other testimonies - many of them strikingly similar - relate to the priest’s supposed obsession with using confession to delve into the sexual lives of the youths of his congregation, while initiating physical contact.

Karadima vehemently denied all of these accusations while under investigation by Minister Gonzalez, attributing them to the work of the devil and the “ingratitude” of his fellow priests, dozens of whom are included in the ranks of Karadima’s accusers.

By Joe Hinchliffe


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.