SANTIAGO, Chile – An Irish-born priest was found guilty on Wednesday of sexually abusing a minor while he was chaplain at a school in Chile’s capital.
A court in Santiago said that the Rev. John O’Reilly committed the abuse while he was the spiritual guide at the Cumbres school located in the affluent neighborhood of Las Condes.
The families of two sisters had accused the priest of molesting the pre-teen girls between 2007 and 2012. The court absolved him in one of the cases. His sentence will be announced on Nov. 11.
“The court has established … beyond all reasonable doubt the following facts: that O’Reilly decided to carry out actions of a sexual nature through body contact with a school student,” Judge Maria Teresa Barrientos, said adding that the priest committed the abuse several times in 2010 and 2012 during school hours.
O’Reilly, who arrived to Chile in the mid-1980s and was granted Chilean citizenship in 2008, is a member of the Legion of Christ. The once-respected conservative order fell into scandal after it revealed that its founder had fathered a child and had sexually abused seminarians.
Prosecutors are asking for O’Reilly, who has denied any wrongdoing, to serve 10 years in prison and be banned from any job near children.
The Roman Catholic Church retains a strong influence over society in Chile, although it has lost credibility since 2010, when four men alleged that they were abused by one of the country’s most revered priests when they were between 14 and 17 years old.
The Vatican sanctioned Rev. Fernando Karadima by ordering him to a life of “penitence and prayer.” A Chilean judge later dismissed a criminal case because the statute of limitations had expired, but she concluded that the abuse allegations were truthful.