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Accused priest at center of Chilean controversy insists he is innocent

November 12, 2015

The Catholic priest at the center of Chile’s most controversial sex-abuse case has insisted that he is innocent.

Testifying in a lawsuit brought by his alleged victims, Father Fernando Karadima insisted: “I maintain my innocence.” He said that he never engaged in sexual conduct with the plaintiffs. He added that he was unaware of complaints against him until 2010, when the accusations appeared in the press.

A Chilean court found the charges against Father Karadima compelling, but ruled that he could not be prosecuted because the alleged crimes occurred decades ago and the statute of limitations had expired. In 2011, the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith found that Karadima, now 85, was guilty of sexually abusing young males and, withdrawing his permission to celebrate the sacraments in public, ordered him to retire to a life of private prayer and penance.

The Karadima case has caused waves of protest against the Vatican twice in recent months.

  • When Pope Francis named Bishop Juan Barros to head the Osorno diocese, critics noted that Bishop Barros was an old friend of Father Karadima. The bishop has said that he was unaware of any abuse, and Pope Francis has defended his appointment, saying that the critics were swayed by “unfounded allegations of the leftists.”
  • In September it emerged that two archbishops of Santiago-- Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, the current head of the Chilean archdiocese, and his predecessor, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz—had sought to persuade Vatican officials not to host an address by one of Father Karadima’s accusers. Cardinal Errazuriz (who is one of the nine members of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis on Vatican reforms) has said that he did not take action on the abuse charges because he was convinced that they were false.


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