ROME – Seven years after Fernando Karadima was found guilty by the Vatican of sexually abusing minors and sentenced to a life of penitence and prayer, Pope Francis has made the “exceptional” decision to remove him from the priesthood.
A Vatican statement released on Friday said the decision was made “in conscience and for the good of the Church.”
The now former priest had been found guilty of abuse by the Vatican in 2011, and had been sentenced to a life of penitence and prayer.
Karadima was never sentenced by Chilean courts due to the country’s statute of limitations.
To this day, it’s unknown how many people were sexually abused by Karadima. Presumably, the number of people who were psychologically abused, victims of his abuse of power, or who had their consciences manipulated by the priest, is even larger.
In the 1980s and 1990s Karadima led a one-time impressive lay movement from his parish in El Bosque, Chile, with some 40 young men finding their vocation to the priesthood there. Four of these men, who formed his “iron circle,” were later made bishops.
The prelates have long been accused by the survivors of Karadima of having known of the abuses of their mentor and covering up for him. Francis has accepted the resignation of two of these bishops, and one of them, Juan Barros, has been subpoenaed by the prosecutor’s office on charges of cover-up.
Juan Carlos Cruz, one of the victims, immediately reacted to the news of Karadima being expelled from the priesthood on Twitter, saying that he “never thought I’d see this day. A criminal who has ruined so many people’s lives with his abuse.”
“I thank Pope Francis for doing this. I hope thousands of survivors feel a bit of the relief I feel today,” Cruz wrote.
Citing the Code of Canon Law, canon 331, the Vatican said Francis had “exercised his ordinary authority which is supreme, full, immediate and universal.”
The entire canon, which is the first of a series dedicated exclusively to the figure of the pope, reads: “The bishop of the Roman Church, in whom continues the office given by the Lord uniquely to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, is the head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the pastor of the universal Church on earth. By virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely.”
Karadima was an extremely powerful man. The parish he ran was always full of people, with nightly eight o’clock Masses that were standing-room only.
The announcement from the Vatican, which came a day after the pope’s decision, follows a similar decree that led to the removal from the priesthood of Cristian Precht, who, like Karadima, had been found guilty of abuse by the Vatican, but instead of getting a life sentence of penitence and prayer, was suspended from ministry for five years, from 2012 to 2017.
While Precht was a hero to the left and Karadima was considered much more conservative, the two moved among the country’s elites. Precht was often referred to as a “charming bear, friendly with everyone,” while Karadima was widely regarded as the opposite.
To date, it still remains unclear as to why in the early 2010s, Karadima received a life-long sentence and Precht only a five-year one, while the two were investigated at virtually the same time.