Fernando Karadima died in a retirement home on Monday, July 26, in the same municipality where he committed his alleged crimes. The Chilean priest became the face of a massive sexual abuse scandal that rocked Chile. He was forced into retirement by the Church, but never spent a day behind bars.
Chilean priest Fernando Karadima died on Monday, July 26, Chilean media reports. The 90-year-old Karadima was spending his last days in a retirement home in the El Bosque municipality. Several weeks ago, he was admitted to the hospital with severe lung problems due to a coronavirus infection. Karadima was the eye of the storm of a sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Chilean Catholic Church for several years, and that allegedly included cover-ups from the highest ranks of the Church.
The initial allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Kardima and others surged in the 1980s. However, then-Archbishop Juan Francisco Fresno Larraín and several bishops did not take any steps to try to stop it or even to investigate. Later complaints and allegations were also rejected by clergymen, who offered spiritual counseling to Karadima’s alleged victims. However, no actions were ever taken against the priest until 2010, when four of his victims stepped forward and made their accusations public, causing the Chilean Public Ministry to launch its own investigation into the priest.
“Prayer and penance”
A parallel investigation, conducted by the Catholic Church, followed, after attorneys and public investigators denounced the problems they were facing in the higher courts of Santiago, due to what they called “entanglement of power,” with State sectors working with the Church to avoid criminal prosecution of the priest. The investigation by the Church ultimately found the accusations credible and the Vatican convicted the priest and sentenced him to a life of “prayer and penance.” In the aftermath of the conviction, several other priests, bishops, and even Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati, resigned or were withdrawn from their posts due to their role with respect to the sexual abuse by Karadima: they either knew about the abuse, participated in it, or helped cover it up.
The Karadima case became worldwide news due to the roles the State and the Church played in cover-ups and avoiding prosecution. After Karadima’s death on Monday, many pointed to the fact that the ex-priest spent his final years in a Santiago retirement home, not prison.
The four victims who started the criminal case in 2010 released a forward-looking statement: “Everything we have to say about Karadima has been said. He was one more link in this culture of perversion and cover-up in the Church. We are at peace and we are only moved to continue fighting so that these crimes do not happen again.”
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.