SANTIAGO – The Catholic Church in Chile must pay a compensation of 450 million pesos to three victims of former priest Fernando Karadima. The turning point in the civil case against Karadima was a letter, written by former archbishop Errázuriz. In that letter he acknowledges having closed a sexual abuse investigation against Karadima.
National media in Chile have called the outcome ´historic,´ as the Karadima case has become emblematic for the sexual abuse scandal in the Chilean Catholic church. Fernando Karadima, former priest of the El Bosque parish in Providencia, was accused in 2010 for the first time by the three victims. Juan Carlos Cruz, José Andrés Murillo and James Hamilton were not the only ones who accused Karadima of sexual abuse, but their case became symbolic as they also sued the church for covering up the abuse.
The cover-up by the Catholic Church was proven after last week a letter was discovered, written by former archbishop of Santiago Francisco Javier Errázuriz. In the letter, the then archbishop admits having closed the investigation against Fernando Karadima. He avoided asking prosecutors to interrogate Karadima, out of respect for the priest, who got expelled from the church by Pope Francis this September.
Errázuriz defends his actions in the letter by saying he wants to “avoid a scandal. It would only make the problem more serious. Only indirect measures help.” For both the victims of Karadima and the prosecutors, this letter shows that the highest ranks within the Chilean church were both aware of sexual abuse and actively involved in covering up.
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Victims are “happy there has been put an end to impunity”
In a joint statement, the three victims stated that they are glad the state has shown through its decision that “regardless of the power of an organization, everyone must respond for their actions, especially if they are in charge of the care of children, adolescents and vulnerable people”.
As the victims of the sexual abuse said: “This ruling should mark the end of impunity in matters of clerical sexual abuse,” the ruling can be seen a landmark in the long-lasting sexual abuse scandal that has been choking the Chilean Catholic Church. National prosecutor Emiliano Ariás is currently investigating 119 more cases, involving priests and bishops who are being accused of committing or covering up sexual abuse. Today, the former bishop of Valparaíso Gonzalo Duarte has been summoned.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today.