SANTIAGO, Chile — An Irish-born priest of the Legion of Christ religious order has been given 72 hours to leave Chile after he finished serving a four-year sentence on Monday for sexually abusing minors.
Chile’s Congress earlier revoked the honorary citizenship it gave to Father John O’Reilly in 2008 and the government ordered him to leave the country or be expelled now that his term of conditional liberty has finished.
It’s an unusually harsh finale for such a prominent priest and it comes at the end of a year that has seen Chile’s Catholic hierarchy humiliated over decades of abuse and cover-up.
In 2014, O’Reilly was convicted of sexually abusing a minor while he was a chaplain at a prestigious school operated by the Legion in Santiago. The court also banned him from any job near children and ordered that his genetic data be added to a registry for abusers.
He had been working in Chile since the mid-1980s.
O’Reilly’s downfall is also further evidence that the problems in the Mexican-based Legion of Christ did not end with its founder. The late Father Marcial Maciel was found to have been a serial pedophile who fathered at least three children with two women.
While O’Reilly was convicted by Chile’s courts, his canonical case has languished in the Vatican. Victims have cited it as evidence of how the Chilean Church discredited victims in favor of clerics for years.
Meanwhile, an attorney for a victim said Monday that someone had tried to bribe a witness to change the testimony in an attempt to avoid O’Reilly’s expulsion. Lawyer Jose Ignacio Escobar said it wasn’t clear who had made the offer, which was audiotaped.