Pope Francis defrocks Chilean priest amid sex abuse concerns

Pope Francis gives a speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Nick Ameen

Sept. 30 (UPI) — Pope Francis has removed a Chilean priest, whom the church found guilty seven years ago of sexually abusing minors, from the clerical state.

“The Holy Father has taken this exceptional decision in conscience and for the good of the Church,” Francis said regarding his decision to defrock Fernando Karadima, of the archdiocese of Santiago de Chile, in a decree signed Thursday, which became effective on Friday.

The decision prohibits Karadima, found guilty by the church in 2011 of sexually abusing minors, from calling himself a priest.

Seven years ago, the Vatican ordered him to retire in isolation in an undisclosed location. The Vatican’s decision sentenced Karadima to “lifelong prohibition from the public exercise of any ministerial act, particularly confession and the spiritual guidance of any category of persons.”

At least four men have accused Karadima of abusing them as minors, but criminal charges against him were dismissed in 2010 on lack of evidence. Karadima has denied the sex abuse allegations.

Survivors celebrated the decision to defrock him.

“I want to thank the pope for doing this, because what no one else did, he had the guts to do,” Juan Carlos Cruz, who says he was one of Karadima’s victims, said in a Wall Street Journal report. “I hope survivors today have a little bit of peace after all everyone has suffered at the hands of this horrible man.”

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The archbishop’s office has paid for Karadima, 88, to live in a nursing home in the Santiago district of Chile, the New York Times reported. He is free to move around now that he is no longer a priest.

Francis angered survivors in January when he defended Juan Barros, accused of covering up the abuse, and calling accusations against Barros “slander.”

Francis reactivated a sexual abuse advisory panel in February amid protests to look into how abuse cases were handled. All of the 34 Chilean bishops resigned, including Barros, a few months later.

Vatican investigators found in a 2,300-page report that there was a “culture of abuse” that resulted in covering up abuse allegations for an extended period.

Barros has denied the accusations.

“We were facing a very serious case of corruption and it was necessary to tear it out at the root,” Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said in a statement.

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