3 Dec 2010

One of Chile's most respected and influential priests denies criminal complaints he sexually abused minors

Inside Cost Rica - May 3, 2010

Chile Shaken by Sex Abuse Allegations against Revered Priest

By Daniela Estrada


SANTIAGO (IPS) - A small group of feminists demonstrated outside the Metropolitan Cathedral in the Chilean capital Thursday to express their condemnation of an influential Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing at least five teenagers.

"Imagine what a shock it is for those of us who did not know what was really going on with these priests," 44-year-old Edita Andrade told IPS, as she watched the protest by a score of representatives of Articulación Feminista Por la Libertad de Decidir (Feminist Network for the Right to Choose).

"I think it's a good thing for people to wake up and react. Religion cannot be used to cover up these crimes," Andrade said. A few steps away Sonia, another Chilean woman, was calling for priests involved in sexual abuse to be specifically named. "We need to avoid generalising, because not all priests are the same," she told IPS.

"Many things are damaging the Catholic Church. Covering up child sex abuse crimes is one of them," Octavio Rojas, who joined the symbolic protest in Santiago's main square, told IPS.

This South American country of 17 million people has been shaken by the case of Fernando Karadima, formerly parish priest at the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the well-to-do Santiago neighbourhood of Providencia, who is under investigation by the justice system for alleged sexual abuse committed two decades ago involving at least five teenage boys.

The 80-year-old Karadima, who is described as a charismatic, influential and highly respected cleric who trained many priests, some of whom are now bishops, denies the allegations. He has been defended this week by members of religious orders and ordained and lay Catholics.

James Hamilton, a 44-year-old gastroenterologist, and Juan Carlos Cruz, a 46-year-old executive living in the United States, denounced Karadima in an article published Apr. 22 in The New York Times. [see below]

Hamilton, Cruz and three other men who were allegedly abused by the priest, starting when they were under 18, talked about their experiences on the Informe Especial programme of the state Televisión Nacional de Chile channel on Apr. 27.

Previously, on Apr. 21, the president of the Chilean Bishops' Conference, Monsignor Alejandro Goic, formally apologised to Chilean society for the cases of sexual abuse committed by priests.

Goic, who is also bishop of Rancagua, said 20 priests have been accused of paedophilia in Chile. Five have been convicted, another five are being actively investigated by the justice authorities, and the rest have either been absolved or their cases are still under review.

Four days later, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz admitted in a letter read out at mass in every Catholic church that he had suspended an investigation into Karadima's alleged behaviour in 2005, in order to await "further evidence" and to consult experts in canon law.

He said the investigation was resumed in 2009, when he handed over the evidence against Karadima to a new Church "Promotor of Justice", appointed last year, for a thorough investigation of the facts, for either "a declaration of innocence or the necessary measures."

"There is no room in the priesthood for those who abuse minors and there is no pretext whatever that can justify this crime," said the cardinal, who called on victims to report their experiences.

"Citizens have a duty, not only to discuss all the details of these cases in public, but also to demand punishment," Adriana Gómez of Articulación Feminista, an umbrella group of some 20 organisations, told IPS.

"Women's organisations have been struggling over the last few years against a Catholic Church that imposes a very strict morality and harsh rules on us, and then we see impenetrable secrecy as they close ranks around those who committed these crimes, which are treated as misdemeanours, human failings," she complained.

In Gómez's view, the recent statements by the Chilean church leadership are not enough. "I don't think there is complete transparency yet. It seems some are more protected than others. So far there have been few criminal penalties. I'm sure Karadima will only be punished by sending him on 'spiritual retreat'," she predicted.

As well as penalties for priests found guilty of child abuse and reparations for the victims, Articulación Feminista is demanding that the Catholic Church refrain from interference in state matters and desist from its "control over people's bodies, sexuality and reproduction," a reference to the country's complete ban on abortions, among other issues.

Ena von Baer, official spokeswoman for right-wing President Sebastián Piñera, said Wednesday in reference to the Karadima case that the government "will always be on the side of the victims" while it waits for a judicial verdict.

Amid the global scandal over paedophile priests, on Apr. 12 the Vatican posted guidelines from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which says that the facts in these cases should "always" be reported to the civil authorities.

According to the last census in 2002, nearly 90 percent of Chileans over the age of 15 believed in some form of religion. Of these, 70 percent said they were Catholic, 15.1 percent were protestant, and 4.4 percent belonged to other faiths.


This article was found at:

http://www.insidecostarica.com/special_reports/2010/2010-05/chile_child_sex.htm

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New York Times - April 22, 2010

Chilean Abuse Case Tests Loyalty of a Parish

By ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO and LAURIE GOODSTEIN


SANTIAGO, Chile — The Rev. Fernando Karadima is one of Chile’s most respected and influential priests. Some go so far as to call him a “living saint,” who for half a century trained dozens of priests and helped mold thousands of young Catholics from Santiago’s elite.

Now four men who were once devoted followers have filed a criminal complaint alleging that Father Karadima, now 80, sexually abused them in secret for years.

One man said he had reported the abuse to Father Karadima’s superiors in the archdiocese of Santiago as many as seven years ago, but they took no action. All four men filed formal complaints last year with the archdiocesan tribunal and, receiving no response, spoke publicly for the first time this week.

But the allegations have been largely met not with anger at Father Karadima but with outrage at the accusers by many of his parishioners, a prominent conservative politician and church officials. They say a man so respected over so much time could not possibly have abused his followers, though as the news broke this week, a cardinal here confirmed that the church has been secretly investigating claims of sexual abuse leveled against the priest.

The case, in one of Latin America’s most staunchly Catholic countries, comes at a time when the Roman Catholic Church worldwide is under increasing scrutiny over how it handles accusations of sexual abuse of minors by the clergy. It also underscores the church’s continuing vulnerability as new instances of abuses are alleged around the Catholic world — some, as in Chile, against well-known and trusted figures.

Chile’s Catholic Church officially asked for forgiveness earlier this week for priests involved in some 20 cases of sexual abuse against minors.

In this new case, Chilean bishops are confronted with the prospect of weighing their loyalty to a revered, elderly priest against expectations — coming now from the Vatican as well — that they handle abuse cases with greater transparency. Last week the Vatican’s secretary of state and second in command, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, spent six days in Chile. The accusers said that church officials told them that Cardinal Bertone held discussions about how the church should respond to the accusations against Father Karadima. Church officials deny that the cardinal had any formal talks with the accuser’s lawyers or Chilean bishops during his trip.

Like many pulled into Father Karadima’s orbit, James Hamilton said he worshiped him almost from the moment he was chosen at the age of 17 to be part of his Catholic Action youth movement. The priest became his confessor, his spiritual adviser, his father figure.

“He was God’s representative over me,” said Dr. Hamilton, now 44 years old and a gastric surgeon.

For weeks after joining the movement, he shrugged off kisses on the mouth and pats on his genitals from the priest, he said. Then one day, while on a retreat at a seaside town west of Santiago, Dr. Hamilton said, Father Karadima took his intimate play much further.

“I was paralyzed, frozen,” Dr. Hamilton said. “I was destroyed.”

What ensued, according to Dr. Hamilton, was 20 years of sexual abuse at the hands of Father Karadima.

A criminal complaint filed in court here on Wednesday alleges that the priest molested at least four young men — three while they were minors — over at least two decades.

Parish officials and Father Karadima’s lawyer denied the charges this week.

As news broke Wednesday about the allegations, El Bosque, the parish where Father Karadima is based, rallied around the priest. At a packed mass, Bishop Andrés Arteaga briefly expressed solidarity for Father Karadima in a sermon. Outside the modest-looking church with the red-colored walls, most parishioners expressed unwavering support.

“This is the devil’s work,” said María Eugenia Trenova, 65, who said she attended Mass every night. “I have known Father Fernando for 30 years. He has never done anything wrong.”

Alejandro García-Huidobro, a conservative congressman and a former member of Catholic Action, dismissed the claims out of hand, saying the priest was “absolutely innocent,” to rousing applause outside the church.

A disciple of Juanita Fernández Solar, a Jesuit priest and Chile’s first saint, Father Karadima has trained some 50 active priests and five bishops over his long career, said the Rev. Juan Esteban Morales, who leads El Bosque parish, which serves some of Santiago’s most influential families.

Father Karadima reinvented Catholic Action, founded by Father Alberto Hurtado as a sort of youth movement to help the poor, and installed it in El Bosque.

Dr. Hamilton was one of them. His great-grandfather founded St. George, one of Santiago’s most prestigious English boys schools. His mother attended Villa María Academy, an exclusive Catholic school for girls.

Dr. Hamilton’s father disappeared from his life for a decade. He found solace and direction in El Bosque during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

“It was the place where all the doubts and anguish about dictatorship dissipated, where they spoke of the power of Pinochet as coming from God,” he said.

Impeccably dressed and with perfectly groomed nails and slicked-back hair, Father Karadima cut an aristocratic figure, appealing to both young and old in Chile’s elite.

In 1983, Dr. Hamilton was invited to join Catholic Action, which he considered to be a great honor. Some 300 young people would gather once a week before Mass to listen to Father Karadima talk of “sainthood,” which he saw as “based on absolute obedience and the humbleness of recognizing our weaknesses and sins.”

The priest offered to be his confessor and spiritual guide. “ I felt like I was being chosen by God,” Dr. Hamilton said.

The priest said that to guide someone, he had to know the person completely. At first most of their confessions were focused on Dr. Hamilton’s sexuality.

Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean who is now a corporate executive in the United States, said that when he was a 17-year-old seminary student who had just lost his father, Father Karadima also used confession as way to abuse him, touching his genitals and kissing him on the mouth. He said that in confession he had told Father Karadima that he was confused about his sexuality. He said the priest took advantage of that knowledge to intimidate him into remaining silent.

“This man had total power over me,” Mr. Cruz said. “I just wanted to commit suicide but I wasn’t brave enough to do it and I didn’t want to do that to my mother.”

Now 46, Mr. Cruz said he eventually recovered with the support of psychologists, his family and friends. But he said that in Santiago, Father Karadima’s sexual transgressions with his young followers were an open secret, and that it was not hard for his victims to find one another other.

Dr. Hamilton characterized the trauma of the abuse as so great that it continued until he was 38, even after he married, to a woman who regularly confessed to Father Karadima. The couple would go to Mass every night and often be invited to dinner with the priest. Father Karadima would sometimes ask Dr. Hamilton to accompany him upstairs to his room to attend to a nagging medical condition. The sexual contact would continue, even as his wife and children were downstairs, Dr. Hamilton said.

In 2004 Dr. Hamilton filed an official claim of sexual abuse to a church official outside the parish. No one ever responded, he said.

Shortly thereafter, he began intensive psychotherapy. Then last August, Dr. Hamilton and Mr. Cruz and one other former seminary student made an appointment with the tribunal in the archdiocese of Santiago, gathered their courage and filed formal complaints about Father Karadima. Three of the four complainants spoke to The New York Times.

They say they are not asking for money, only that the truth finally come out about the powerful priest.

“We just want this man taken out” of the ministry, Mr. Cruz said.

(Alexei Barrionuevo reported from Santiago, and Laurie Goodstein from New York. Pascale Bonnefoy and Tomás Munita contributed reporting from Santiago.)

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 30, 2010

An article last Friday about accusations of sexual abuse against the Rev. Fernando Karadima, a priest in Chile, erroneously attributed a distinction to a Jesuit priest he considered himself a disciple of, the Rev. Alberto Hurtado. It was Juanita Fernández Solar — not Father Hurtado — who was Chile’s first saint.


This article was found at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/23/world/americas/23chile.html

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