The Santiago Times
Monday, 03 May 2010 05:41
Written by Translated by Steve Anderson
Editorial in Sunday’s La Tercera
(Ed. Note: Sexual abuse charges against Father Fernando Karadima, 82, a living icon in the upscale part of Chile’s Catholic Church community, have created a tremendous amount of attention in the media and throughout the country. Karadima has ministered to the “very best” of Chile’s Catholic elite and has been instrumental in recruiting new priests. Four sitting Chilean bishops were recruited and trained by Karadima.
The editorial below was in Sunday’s La Tercera and gives the readers sense of how serious an issue this is for Chile’s Catholic community: not just Karadima’s alleged sexual transgressions, but also the Church’s very obvious foot-dragging in response to charges that first began to surface in 2003.
We found it quite interesting that La Tercera’s editorial writers – as a show of respect?- opted to not mention Karadima’s name in the editorial below. )
Given the seriousness of the charges that have been brought against the former leader of the El Bosque Church, his history of service to the Church, and the public attention the case has generated, the whole affair has now become a crucial kind of test for Chile’s Catholic Church.
Impacted by a severe, world-wide loss of confidence, the Catholic Church faces the challenge of dealing with the sexual abuses committed by religious leaders in different countries around the world. As the spokesman for the Vatican has said, the manner in which the Church deals with this issue “will be crucial for its moral credibility.”
In order to protect victims and to sanction priests who have betrayed their vows by hurting innocent people – and in an effort to restore the weakened credibility of the Church –Pope Benedicto XVI has taken measures that underscore the need to take these sexual abuse cases not just before the proper Church authorities, but also to the criminal courts. Previously, the Church would have opted to prevent such a public scandal, which is at the center of much of the criticism directed at the Church.
The Pope has also publicly apologized for the conduct of priests who have violated their public trust and for the negligent way the Church has often reacted to accusations of sexual abuse. The Church has also met privately with groups of victims.
It was in this spirit, and after the visit to Chile by the Vatican’s chief secretary, that the Bishop’s Council publicly emitted a document asking for the forgiveness of people and communities impacted by sexual abuse. And insisting that “there is no room in the Church for a priest who abuses minors.”
This statement coincided with the growing awareness in Church communities that a special Church investigation was under way against the former head of the Catholic Church parish in Providencia’s El Bosque Church. The long and active history of the priest under investigation, and the fact that he has been instrumental in recruiting new leaders to the Church, is amply evidence to his supporters that the charges are completely false. But there are now four victims claiming to have been abused and their statements appear to be completely coherent.
So while there should always be the legal presumption of innocence, the alleged sexual misconduct must be investigated at great length in order to reach the absolute truth of the matter.
The criminal investigation is now in the hands of the public prosecutor for the Eastern District of the Metropolitan Region. He must determine whether or not he has jurisdiction over the case (if the alleged behavior occurred before June, 2005, then it must be dealt with under the old, less public, criminal justice system).
At the same time it is necessary to see if the statute of limitations has run, and, lastly, if in fact crimes were committed that warrant prosecution and a trial. It makes no difference who the accused is – the facts of the matter must be determined.
For its part, the Church’s investigation into the case must also determine how the accused conducted himself and should go even further than the criminal court proceeding. The Church investigation should determine not only if the abuses occurred, but also if the priest’s behavior was inappropriate in any way whatsoever.
It is very lamentable that the Santiago Arquidioces delayed so long in beginning its investigation into the charges. The Archbishop of Santiago said that the first charges were made in 2005, although another version suggests Church authorities were first informed in 2003. But after the Church began its investigation in 2005, it was suspended and not reopened again until 2009.
This failure to investigate has not only been denounced by the plaintiffs in the lawsuit; it is very difficult to explain – especially since Chile’s Bishops in 2003 made a very public statement about sexual abuses in the Church and established procedures for dealing with allegations, the same procedures that are now being enforced.
Because of the severity of the accusations made against the former El Bosque parrish leader, because of his long history with the Church and the great attention the cases has received in the media, this cases is a very crucial one for Chile’s Catholic Church. The Church investigation must go forward quickly and thoroughly, and making its determination in the most transparent way possible, backed up by solid evidence.
Any victims must be protected and the rights of the accused must be upheld, so that the real objective is achieved – the truth beyond any reasonable doubt.
SOURCE: LA TERCERA