SANTIAGO – Victims of sexual abuse by Catholic monks said on Thursday they suspect that elements of Chile’s business community have been paying the lawyers representing accused pedophiles.
“Remember that big businessmen paid the defense of priests like Fernando Karadima and in the exact case of the Marists, we do not know who is financing the legal defense of the abusers,” victim Isaac Givovich told a press conference in Santiago.
Given the large sums that victims have been forced to spend on attorneys, “it’s very important that there is transparency on behalf of the church and that it be revealed who’s paying for the defense of those delinquents,” he said, referring specifically to charges against members of the Congregation of Marist Brothers.
“It draws our attention and it worries us that mayor corporate defenses are financing the Marist Brothers, in our case, and also other priests. We don’t believe it’s being done for free, that does not exist, we aren’t certain if the Chilean bishops conference is financing them,” Givovich said.
The case of Karadima has become emblematic of the clerical sexual abuse scandal in Chile, as the strong ties he forged with parts of the country’s economic and political elite made it difficult for his accusers to get a hearing.
Karadima was sentenced in 2011 under canon law to a life of seclusion and penance for sexually assaulting minors. Last year the Vatican took a further step and defrocked the once-influential priest.
The decision was part of the pope’s continuing efforts to clean up the Catholic Church in this South American nation.
Last May, Francis summoned 34 Chilean bishops to the Vatican and asked for their resignations after it was revealed that they had committed “grave errors and omissions.”
The pope has also launched a legal process within the church to address the accusations against the Marist Brothers in Chile.
Chilean prosecutors are investigating 148 cases of alleged sexual abuses committed by individuals linked to the Catholic Church, chief prosecutor Jorge Abbott said earlier this month.
Those cases involve 255 purported victims.