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Fernando Karadima was booted from the Catholic Church in 2018. Photo: Vladmir Rodas/Getty Images.
Fernando Karadima was booted from the Catholic Church in 2018. Photo: Vladmir Rodas/Getty Images.

The worst sexual predator of the Church in Chile dies

The worst sexual predator of the Catholic Church in Chile, Fernando Karadima, has died. He was 90 years old and died in a nursing home in Santiago.

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The most notorious sexual predator of the Catholic Church in Chile, Fernando Karadima, has died. He was 90 years old and died in the Santiago nursing home where he lived. In a major decision, Pope Francis expelled him from the priesthood in 2018 for having committed numerous sexual assaults on minors.

The Vatican then announced that the Holy Father had made that decision "in conscience and for the good of the Church."

The institution had already found him guilty in 2011 for repeated sexual and psychological abuse of minors in the Church of the Sacred Heart in the Chilean capital. The sentence condemned him to a life of penance and prayer, in which he was prohibited from contacting former parishioners or carrying out any public ecclesiastical acts.

Although the Chilean justice system also investigated Karadima, he did not go to prison because the crimes — committed in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s — had surpassed their statutes of limitation. During all those years, the priest enjoyed being one of the most prestigious priests in Chile. Even politicians and businessmen with great power in the country attended his masses.

Karadima was ordained a priest in 1958 and appointed titular pastor at the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus until 2006. The Catholic Church was instrumental in supporting many of the victims of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, but some saw in the dictator the savior of Chile and Karadima was one of them.

In 2004, the first complaints were presented to the Church, but were kept hidden and news did not reach the public until 2010. One of his victims, James Hamilton, publicly denounced the abuses he suffered on a TV show that year. He also uncovered that other priests in the same parish knew what was going on and covered it up.

Karadima abused him for two decades, even when he had married and had children. But that was precisely what decided him to report it. He was afraid because he thought his son was in danger. He sought out other survivors of the abuses and together they testified before a prosecutor in 2010. It was then that the investigation within the Church began and a criminal trial was opened against Karadima.

It is still unknown how many abuses he committed and against how many minors because many of his victims have never dared to speak up. But the fact that the Vatican decided to expel a priest, something unusual, gave the idea of ​​the scale of his attacks.

The complaints that came after many other victims led Karadima to go from being nicknamed 'El Santo' — 'The Saint' — to becoming one of the worst sexual predators in Chile's history.

In 2019, the Chilean Court of Appeals sentenced the Archdiocese of Santiago for moral damages to three of the victims who had suffered abuse by Karadima: James Hamilton himself, Juan Carlos Cruz and José Andrés Murillo. The Church had to pay $146,400 to each.

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