A prominent priest who was accused in 2011 by the Vatican of “sexually abusing minors" yesterday, maintained his innocence, saying he’s not guilty of the offence. .
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.”
Rev. Fernando Karadima now 81, walked into court wearing a Roman collar and holding rosary beads, flanked by police officers after being interrogated for more than two hours.
Angry protesters waited outside. Some screamed “Pedophile!” and banged on the tinted windows of the dark SUV that drove him back to the convent where he has been living in isolation since the Vatican ordered him to a life of penance and prayer in 2011.
“I don’t recognize the abuses, with children. Never, ever,” Karadima testified, according to a court transcript obtained by The Associated Press. “I maintain my innocence … I never had sexual relations with those who accuse me.
Rev.Fr. Karadima was once one of Chile’s most influential priests. He led the parish of El Bosque in Santiago for nearly sixty years before the allegations came to light in April 2010, when a news investigation into the charges was broadcast on state television. Two months later, the then archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, forwarded the allegations to the Vatican amid an eruption of abuse cases globally.
Victims said the abuse which began about 20 years ago when they were between 14 and 17 years old in his residence at Sacred Heart of Jesus church said allegations against Fr Karadima were reported earlier but were ignored by the cardinal Errazuriz, who is one of nine cardinals on Pope Francis’s key advisory panel, has acknowledged in court testimony that he failed to act on several abuse allegations because he believed them to be untrue.
A Chilean judge later determined the abuse allegations against Karadima were truthful but ruled the time limit had expired for him to be prosecuted.
The three victims who filed the current lawsuit accused Chile’s Catholic Church of a cover-up and are demanding a total of $640,000 in compensation and a public apology. The Church has rejected the accusation.
Fr Karadima testified on Wednesday that he first found out about the abuse accusations against him in 2010 through press reports, and said he was never sanctioned by his superiors, according to court documents.
“He has not changed his stance of denying everything, of not recalling even things that he said before," Juan Pablo Hermosilla, a lawyer for the three victims, said after the hearing.
“His statement had a lot of ‘I don’t remember’ in it, which was expected. He recalled only when it was convenient to him."
The Vatican’s punishment for Fr Karadima is one often used for elderly priests who sexually abused children years ago. Rather than subject the priests and victims to a lengthy Church trial, which might not end before the priest in question dies, the Vatican can impose an administrative sanction such as the one Fr Karadima received, which essentially renders the man a priest in name only.
But Fr Karadima has remained defiant. Although he was also ordered by the Vatican to never again celebrate a public Mass, he was photographed disobeying the order last year. Chile’s top Church leaders later confirmed his act of insubordination and sent the case to the Vatican for investigation.