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Chile wrestles with religion and impunity

In Chile, the bishops and cardinals are genuine social authorities and are accorded special respect, though that social standing has been damaged in the scandal.  The priesthood defends its application of ecclesiastical justice, separate from and in some ways "above" the civil code, due to the fact that "it is older than the Chilean state."  

 

The Public Ministry, or attorney general's office, named special prosecutor Xavier Armendáriz to take over the Karamadi case, now that it has found its way into the Chilean civil system. 

"The law will not show favoritism.  The office of the accused will not influence this investigation," Armendáriz stated. 

Of course, the fact that the prosecutor made the disclaimer is evidence that Chileans expect the opposite.  Most people believe that priests - especially one of the most powerful - are not just like any other normal, average citizen and likely won't face the same penalties as an average citizen.  If the media and the public do not follow this case closely and keep the pressure on, there is no guarantee of sanctions. 

Deputies, senators, and well-known politicians have come forward to defend the principle of "innocent until proven guilty".  The public, however, condemned Karadima the moment they saw the tears of James Hamilton, this presitigious doctor and father of a prosperous family, revealing on camera in lurid detail the abuses he suffered at 17 years of age. 

Cardinal Erráruriz, ashamed of his decision to ignore the case five years ago, said only, "I had no evidence with which to pursue an investigation at the time." 

The victims meanwhile complain that no one in the Catholic Church listened to their stories, much less believed them - that is, until the press took their stories public. 

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