Catholic Official Suspended Investigation of Chilean Priest

The Associated Press
April 25, 2010

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A top Roman Catholic official in Chile acknowledged in a letter Sunday that he suspended an investigation into reported abuses by one of Chile’s most respected and influential priests because he was looking for more evidence.

The official, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, assured parishioners that the church investigation was again under way into the conduct of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, who is retired and is also under criminal investigation by a Chilean prosecutor.

Cardinal Errazuriz’s letter, which was read aloud Sunday in all parishes in the archdiocese here in the Chilean capital, said that after an initial investigation, “I suspended the matter to wait for new evidence, analyze more deeply what we already had and hold new consultations with experts in canonical law.”

James Hamilton, a 44-year-old gastroenterologist, said that in 2004 he filed an official claim form of sexual abuse by Father Karadima to a church official outside the parish. No one ever responded, he said.

Mr. Hamilton said he worshiped the charismatic priest almost from the moment he was chosen at 17 to be part of Father Karadima’s Catholic Action youth movement. The priest, he said in an interview, became his confessor, his spiritual adviser and father figure.

But Mr. Hamilton said that it was not long before Father Karadima began kissing him on the mouth and touching his genitals. Then, on a retreat at a seaside town west of Santiago, the abuse went much further, he said. It continued for nearly 20 years.

A criminal complaint filed in court here last Wednesday accuses the priest of molesting at least four young men — three while they were minors — over at least two decades.

Father Karadima, 79, has not responded directly to the charges, but his lawyer has said that his client is innocent.

Cardinal Errazuriz encouraged victims of sexual abuse by priests to contact church authorities, saying the stream of recent abuse claims from Europe “has shocked and shaken us.”

He promised that the investigation of Father Karadima would be thorough and said it was at a “rather advanced” stage after being turned over to a new investigator last year.

A version of this article appears in print on April 26, 2010, on page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: Catholic Official Suspended Investigation of Chilean Priest.





















Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.