An investigation carried out by the Vatican concluded that the popular Chilean priest Fr. Fernando Karadima Farina is guilty of sexually abusing minors.
Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago, Chile announced the results of the inquiry made by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Feb. 17 at a press conference.
Fr. Karadima was accused by Dr. James Hamilton, journalist Juan Carlos Cruz, philosopher Jose Andres Murillo, and attorney Fernando Batlle, of committing sexual abuse in the 1990s. A civil case against the priest was closed in 2010, and officials are now looking at reopening it.
In his statement, the Archbishop of Santiago explained that the ecclesiastical investigation of Fr. Karadima began in July of 2010 and concluded with a decree issued on Jan. 16, 2011. It said that “based upon the evidence that has been obtained, the Rev. Fernando Karadima Farina is guilty of the aforementioned crimes” and “especially, of the crime of abuse of a minor.”
Taking into account the 80 year-old priest’s advanced age and poor health, the decree orders him to “retire to a life of prayer and penance, in reparation as well for the victims of abuse.”
“The Archbishop of Santiago, in accord with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, shall be charged with evaluating his place of residence, whether inside or outside the diocese, in order to prevent absolutely all contact with his former parishioners and members of the Priestly Union (of the Sacred Heart), and with those who have been under his spiritual care,” the decree states.
It also permanently prohibits Fr. Karadima “from the public exercise of any act of ministry, particularly Confession and spiritual direction for any individual.”
The decree prohibits him from any post in the Priestly Union of the Sacred Heart, the community which he led for several decades and which was founded in Chile in 1928.
Refusal to adhere to the decree will result in “more severe penalties,” including “the loss of the clerical state.”
The decree allows Fr. Karadima the right to appeal, and it suggests that the Archbishop of Santiago carry out a canonical investigation into the formation program and the financial administration of the Priestly Union of the Sacred Heart, which have also come under fire.
“The Archbishop of Santiago has followed the protocol outlined in this decree. He personally notified Fr. Fernando Karadima on Jan. 17 and immediately assigned him a residence in accord with the aforementioned requirements,” the decree states.
The priest’s lawyer, Juan Pablo Bulnes, said he plans to file an appeal but that his client “will completely respect the decision of this tribunal of the Holy See, and Father has accepted the directives given by Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago to begin its implementation.”
Grief and Sorrow of the Archbishop
Archbishop Ezzati, who is also head of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference, said he felt “profound grief and sorrow for those who have been harmed. I extend to them once again my closeness as a father and a pastor.”
“Today (Feb. 18), I wanted to personally contact the victims to notify them of the decree from the Holy See, while just a few days after my ministry in the Archdiocese began I had the opportunity to meet with one of them,” he said.
The archbishop said he was deeply saddened over the harm that has been caused to the ministry and mission of priests in Santiago. “However, I am comforted by serene hope, because as Jesus says, ‘The truth shall set you free.’ I think we must never give up seeking for that truth,” he stated.
After thanking the Archbishop Emeritus of Santiago, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, for his work on this case, Archbishop Ezzati said: “The resolution from the Holy See is an authoritative statement. The dicasteries of the Roman Curia act in the name of the Holy Father, seeking the salvation of souls, which is the supreme law of the Church.”
He urged the ecclesial community in Chile to “accept the decision of the Holy See with a spirit of faith and hope, and to help each other mutually so that these kinds of incidents never happen again. I encourage all of my brother priests to embrace holiness of life after the example of the Lord Jesus.”