Puneet Varma (Editor)

Karadima case

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In February 2011 after several years of a Catholic canonical investigation, the Vatican found the Reverend Fernando Karadima guilty of sexually abusing minors and psychological abuse in Chile and sent him to a "life of prayer and penitence" and to "lifelong prohibition from the public exercise of any ministerial act, particularly confession and the spiritual guidance of any category of persons."


Fernando Karadima

Father Karadima was a spiritual leader and father figure for young men from Santiago's elite. He had trained four bishops and 50 priests in the "Parroquia El Bosque", the parish where Karadima was based and which assists some of Santiago's most influential families. Impeccably dressed and with perfectly groomed nails and slicked-back hair, Father Karadima cut an aristocratic figure -- which has been investigated that he wasn't and truly played one so he could appeal to both young and old in Chile's elite.

Alejandro García-Huidobro, a conservative congressman, Bishop Andrés Arteaga, Vice-Cancellor of the Universidad Católica de Chile and many of his parishioners dismissed the claims out of hand and later had to apologize in embarrassment after proven wrong.

First complaints

In 1984 a group of parishioners reported to archbishop, Juan Francisco Fresno, later cardinal, about Father Karadima's "improper conduct." The letter was "torn up and thrown away," according to a court statement by the parishioner. In those days, Karadima had managed to install one of his own as the Cardinal's secretary. This priest was Juan Barros Madrid.

In mid-2003, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa was informed by parishioner José Murillo about the abuses of Karadima, assuming an investigation would be opened. The written report of Murillo came months after the Chilean Bishops Conference issued procedures for handling cases of sexual abuse involving priests. The cardinal answered to Mr. Murillo saying he was praying for him and he didn't open a preliminary investigation.

Civil and canonical investigation

In June 2004 the first investigation into Father Karadima was opened by the Catholic Church. Two years later, the investigator stated to the cardinal his belief that "the accusers to be credible and suggesting certain courses of action.". Nevertheless Cardinal Errázuriz stopped the investigation for more than three years, to wait for new evidence and because he thought the allegations were beyond the statute of limitations.

In April 2010 a civil criminal complaint was filed by victims of sexual abuse by four men who were once devoted followers of Karadima. The Public Ministry, or attorney general's office, named special prosecutor Xavier Armendáriz. He stated that "The law will not show favoritism. The office of the accused will not influence this investigation," although the fact that the prosecutor made the disclaimer is evidence that Chileans expect the opposite. After seven months of conducting the probe, the claims were dismissed by the court ruling that there was not enough evidence to charge him.

One of the claimants accused: "We would have liked to appeal, but with defense attorneys like his, who have the Appeals and Supreme Court eating out of their hands, and a number of powerful people who continue to protect Karadima, we knew it would be an uphill battle that we were likely to lose,"

The defense attorney of Karadima, Lawyer Juan Pablo Bulnes Cerda, is brother of Juan Luis Bulnes Cerda, sentenced in 1970 for the assassination of General René Schneider in 1970 in order to prevent Salvador Allende's inauguration. Juan Pablo Bulnes Cerda works for the law office of Ossa, Bulnes & Asociados. Juan Luis Ossa Bulnes was chief of the "Comando Rolando Matus", a paramilitary organization of the National Party (Chile, 1966–1973). It played a key role in the destabilization of the country during Allende's government. The lawyers Luis Arévalo and Luis Ortiz Quiroga appeared for Karadima also, were attorneys in the 1970s for Julio Bouchon, another participant in Schneider's assassination. They worked also for Colonia Dignidad. According to James Hamilton, one of the claimants, Karadima protected and hid Juan Luis Bulnes Cerda, as he was wanted by the Chilean police in 1970.


After the Vatican's disciplinary action, the Reverend Hans Kast testified that he had witnessed sexual abuses as did the Reverend Andrés Ferrada "but no one ever did anything about it." The Reverend Francisco Walker, president of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal, resigned from the court after admitting the leaking of claimants personal information to Bishop Arteaga and Father Morales.

Bishop Arteaga stepped down from his position at the Universidad Catolica.


Antonio Delfau, a Jesuit priest in Santiago asserted that the Vatican decision "is going to mark a before and after in the way the Chilean Catholic Church proceeds in cases like these, or at least it should," and "From now on, every case of sexual abuse must be treated with meticulous care and not be based on the gut feeling of a given church official."


The Chilean political analyst Ascanio Cavallo, Dean of the Journalism School of the Adolfo Ibáñez University, asserts that: "[it is] the worst scandal of the Chilean Catholic Church" and about the magnitude he says: "[Power] is the true point of the case. The abuses were not possible without a network of political, social and religious power working since 50 years. The assassination of René Schneider … bears traces of the network". Regarding the Catholic church, he says "Fact is that Karadima built a parallel church in the years 1980s and 1990s to satisfy a very specific sector of Santiago's society. This Parachurch [paraiglesia, in original] was the platform of the prevailing positions that damaged the prestige of the institution since 2000"


  • Karadima, el señor de los infiernos by María Olivia Monckeberg, ISBN 956-8410-54-6, Editorial Debate.
  • References

    Karadima case Wikipedia

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