Sheer magnitude of the Chilean pedophile priest scandal becomes apparent
A total of 221 priests and eight bishops are now facing investigation for their alleged part in massive child abuse over up in Chile, according to the Chilean national prosecutor’s office.
Fernando Karadima, Chiles most well-known pedophile priest, who was removed from the clerical state by Pope Francis on Thursday, is also part of the investigation.
In 2011, Karadima had already been found guilty by the Vatican, but instead of them removing him from the priesthood, they sentenced him to a life of penance and prayer.
To convey the sheer magnitude of the Chilean pedophile priest scandal, information derived from three raids on two dioceses- Rancagua and Santiago – led prosecutor Emiliano Arias has opened 70 investigations in the last three months alone.
CRuxNow reports: All of them, according to La Tercera, are against members of the Chilean bishops’ conference who purportedly knew about abuses committed by clerics.
Amongst the things being investigated, according to these reports, is if these bishops sought to quiet victims so they wouldn’t go to civil authorities.
In a letter he gave to the Chilean bishops in May when he summoned them to Rome, Francis wrote that an investigation by Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Spanish Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu had shown mishandling of accusations, because “in not a few cases” grave indications of a crime “were superficially labeled as improbable.”
In late May, every Chilean bishop presented his resignation to Francis, who’s accepted seven of them since and who are expected to accept more.
Some of the bishops who’ve been dismissed from office before turning 75, the mandatory age for a bishop to present his resignation to the pope, are among the eight being investigated by the prosecutor’s office.
According to Francis, Scicluna, and Bertomeu also discovered that alleged crimes were investigated too late, if at all, and in other cases there was a “very grave negligence in the protection of children” by bishops and religious superiors.
One of these cases is that of Cristian Precht, who twice was found guilty by the Vatican of sexually abusing children.
The first time, following a conclusion made by Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati and contradicting his own judicial vicar who wanted a life sentence, Precht was suspended from ministry for five years and then readmitted in 2017.
Earlier this month, the Archdiocese of Santiago, led by Ezzati, announced that Francis had decreed, “with no possibility of appeal,” the “removal from clerical state ex officio et pro bono Ecclesiae” of Precht.
A hero for many within the Chilean Church for confronting the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, Precht to this day continues to be a divisive figure, and despite the evidence against him, there are those in Chile who support him and who blame Francis of being part of a vendetta against a more “liberal” faction of the Church.
Among these are Precht’s legal team, with his lawyer, Luciano Fouillioux, claiming that the canonical process against the former priest is a “criminal act against a historic member where he’s been denied the right to defend himself after the years that he spent defending other Chileans.”
And that is the crux of the matter for many: Precht spent decades waving the flag of human rights, and, according to a Chilean source, many today struggle to reconcile the man who saved many from Pinochet with the “sexual predator” who abused three children in a school run by the Marist Brothers in Santiago, and many more in other areas- both children and adults- according to the original accusations, which led to him being suspended in 2012.
Yet it was the claims made by three Marist victims who came forward last year that sealed Precht’s fate, and, for at least one of them, there was no foul play suggested.
“For us, the trial was transparent,” said Jaime Concha, who was abused by Precht when he was 15.
Precht was the fifth abuser, between priests and brothers, who he said “crucified” him since he was 10.
“Our tale is very clear … We have spoken and told the same story wherever we’ve been,” he told Crux over the phone on Thursday.
This includes the Holy See’s Embassy in Chile, Scicluna, and Bertomeu, and the sexual crimes unit of Chile’s police force.
“The testimony leaves no room for doubt,” he said.
Francis’s decision to remove not only Precht, but also Karadima, from the priesthood is seen by some as things coming “full circle,” and a Chilean source described it to Crux as a way of removing any uncertainty that abuse is “ubiquitous” and does not prejudge when it comes to ideology.
Father Samuel Fernandez, who once upon a time belonged to Karadima’s El Bosque parish, told Crux that the decision announced by the Vatican to remove his former teacher from the priesthood was “the right one because of the seriousness of his crimes,” yet he also approved of the fact that it has taken this long.
“With Karadima remaining in the priesthood, the Church was allowed to ban him from seeing the faithful from his parish,” Fernandez said over the phone on Friday.
“Allowing for these years to pass has meant that many of those who would have been manipulated by Karadima have been freed from his influence. Psychological manipulation is something he’s very good at.”
Maria Paz Lagos, President of Catholic Voices Chile, told Crux that Karadima’s departure from the priesthood was something “we had been waiting for.”
Yet she also acknowledged that it was a “setting the scales right, or a touché,” with what occurred with Precht a few weeks ago and which had angered a sector of the Chilean Church, that didn’t know why Karadima hadn’t received the same punishment.
Karadima supporters, meanwhile, objected that he’d originally been sentenced to life and Precht to a five-year suspension.
Lagos was in Rome this week participating at a seminar organized by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.
On Wednesday, the group met with Francis at the end of his weekly general attendance, and she had the opportunity to be close to him and ask him to keep Chile dear to his heart and also to appoint a new archbishop for Santiago.
A recording of the dialogue shows Francis saying, “My daughter, I haven’t found the right person yet.”
Bound for home on Saturday, Lagos said she’s leaving the Eternal City “happy, knowing that the pope continues to have Chile in his heart.”