Chile’s Supreme Court has ruled that the Archdiocese of Santiago does not have to provide economic reparations to abuse victims of a former priest, because the relationship between bishops and priests is not of a civil nature.
The ruling put an end to a case that began in June 2003, when a federal judge ruled that a bond of subordination or dependency of a civil order exists between priests and their superiors, making the latter civilly responsible for the actions of their subordinates. The ruling was ratified by the Court of Appeals on June 6, 2004.
The initial ruling did not take into account that the Archdiocese acted appropriately by suspending then Father Jose Andres Aguirre in response to the first complaints of sexual misconduct against him.
The Supreme Court ruled that Aguirre is solely responsible for his actions and should pay civil reparations totaling $88,000 to two victims, as well as serve a prison sentence of 12 years.
In a statement the Archdiocese of Santiago said, “The ruling coincides with the statements of the Archdiocese to the effect that in the Catholic Church, the relationship and bond between a priest and his bishop is of a pastoral and spiritual nature, not a civil one.”
The statement also called for “support for the victims who have suffered or are suffering, and prayer for them and their families.” The ruling “condemns an ex-priest who is going through a difficult period and suffers from an illness that has left him disabled. He also is in need of our help and our prayers.”