Chile wrestles with religion and impunity
In 2005, the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of the Catholic Church of Chile received several serious charges against one of its most celebrated priests. And nothing happened.
This time the accused is Fernando Karadima, 80 years old, parish priest at one of the most important churches, chaplain of an upper-class high school, and founder of the Catholic Action movement. Five of Chile's current Catholic bishops passed through Karadima-headed institutions.
The charge against Karadima is that he abused a young man in the 1980s, a young man who has gone on to become an outstanding doctor. The case was shelved, however, shortly after passing through the hands of sitting archbishopn of Santiágo, Francisco Javier Errázuriz.
Eight months ago, the world shook from the case of Mexican priest Marciel Maciel. TVN's "Informe Especial" (Special Report) broadcast a report that mesmerized the audience with the in-depth look at the hidden story of the Mexican founder of the Legions of Christ.
The next day, journalist Paulina de Allende Salazar got a call saying, "In Chile, we also have a Maciel."
"Check it out," the voice said.
From that moment, "Informe Especial" launched a journalistic investigation that concluded just two weeks ago. TVN again revealed shocking details, this time charging that the Catholic Church had refused to investigate Karadima's alleged abuses, despite five tesimonies against him.
As the Karadima saga shows, Chile has not escaped the troubles caused by the Catholic Church's handling of the global scandal of pedophilia and abuse, and its failure to care for the victims.
The Karadima case has set off a fierce debate in Chile about the impunity that those high up in the Catholic hierarchy enjoy. As recently as the mid-1990s, then bishop of La Serena (a city about 200 miles north of Santiago) Francisco José Cox, was forced to resign his post. Cox was transfered to Colombia after it became public that had been abusing young boys for years.
The Church said Cox was transfered due to "inappropriate behavior". Chile's legal system, meanwhile, never even learned of the charges against Cox.