The Court of Appeals of Santiago de Chile has ordered this Wednesday the Catholic Church to compensate for "moral damage" to three victims of sexual abuse, in an unprecedented decision that opens the door to similar actions and that has been received by those affected as a kind of repair. The ruling forces the archbishopric of Santiago to repair with 100 million pesos (about 130,000 euros) each of the three denouncers of Fernando Karadima, an influential pastor who for decades abused children and adolescents.
The victims, the sociologist José Andrés Murillo, the journalist Juan Carlos Cruz and the doctor James Hamilton, have assured that this failure "is historical", and opens "a light of hope" so that the Church responds by every concealment of abuses that it has been able to commit. The resolution, unanimously, has annulled a judgment of first instance that had rejected the civil suit for lack of evidence. Although there is still an appeal before the Supreme Court, the archbishopric has confirmed that the sentence will not be appealed.
The three plaintiffs claim that they were sexually abused by Karadima and that the church authorities covered him up. Karadima served in the priesthood from 1985 to 2006 and now, aged 88, he lives in a nursing home in Santiago. He has always denied the accusations. He has not been prosecuted before the criminal justice system for having prescribed the crimes, but an investigation carried out by the Vatican in 2011 determined that he was guilty and last year he was removed from the priesthood for the Pope.
The scandal He took the Pontiff to apologize to the faithful. Last week, Francisco accepted the resignation of the archbishop of Santiago, Ricardo Ezzati, investigated by the Chilean justice for covering up abuses of minors by priests. The courts of the South American country are investigating about 120 cases of this type.
"We are satisfied because from now on the Church will have to answer for the cover-ups, which can not continue to be unpunished," said Hamilton, one of the complainants. "This ruling is something historic for the world because it recognizes not only that they are guarantors (the Church) but also recognizes a structure of concealment and that, in other parts of the world, is only being considered," he added. In an overcrowded press conference, Hamilton, Murillo and Cruz, the latter through videoconference, stressed that it was the victims who had "forced the State Justice".
The Archdiocese of Santiago expressed minutes earlier, through a statement, that the ruling "marks an important step" in the process of "restoring justice and trust" in the Church of Santiago, and assured that it will proceed to give full compliance in when it is firm.