ROME – Two priests from a troubled Chilean diocese, part of the 14 local priests suspended after they were accused of being part of a ring of sexual misconduct that included gay prostitution and sexting with minors, have requested to be removed from the priesthood.
Fathers Hector Fuentes and Freddy Gorigoitia are currently suspended from ministry because of the ongoing investigation against them and other priests who were part of the group calling itself “The Family.” The two requested to be laicized on July 28.
The information was confirmed by Bishop Luis Fernando Ramos Perez, auxiliary of Santiago, the country’s capital, who’s currently serving as apostolic administrator in the diocese.
Ramos was appointed by Pope Francis in June, after the pontiff accepted the resignation of Bishop Alejandro Goić Karmelić. The former president of the Chilean bishops’ conference (2004-2010), Goić also headed the national commission for the prevention of abuses of minors. However, after the allegations against his diocese were made public by a TV news program, he resigned from that position.
When the information broke, Goić was forced to acknowledge that he’d received the accusations against the group some two years ago, but hadn’t act with the “appropriate quickness.”
Chile’s T13 television released the investigative report only days after the entire Chilean bishops’ conference had returned to the country after a three-day visit to Rome, where they presented their resignations to Francis en masse for failing to address the country’s clerical sexual abuse crisis.
While they were in Rome, the pope accused Chile’s hierarchy of destroying evidence in cases of clerical sexual abuse, pressuring Church lawyers to minimize accusations, moving priests with credible accusations of abuse to other dioceses and of “grave negligence” in protecting children from pedophile priests.
According to Ramos, despite being part of the clan of priests suspended over allegations of sexual misconduct, the two priests who presented their resignations have no record of accusations of sexual abuse of minors.
Ramos announced the priest’s requests during an emergency general assembly of the Chilean bishops, which began in Punta de Tralca on Monday, to address the country’s crisis.
“There’s always the possibility of a priest resigning, after a process of discernment, and in the case of Rancagua, there are two priests who on Saturday, July 28, asked to resign from the priesthood,” Ramos said, before confirming that they were part of the 14 who had their ministry restricted due to the ongoing investigation.
Regarding the process, Ramos said that “a report detailing the circumstances needs to be prepared, presenting the characteristics of their priestly history, and sent to the Vatican. The resignation is accepted by the Holy Father.”
Since their return from Rome, Francis has accepted the resignation of five bishops, including Bishop Juan Barros, accused of having covered up for his mentor Father Fernando Karadima, the country’s most infamous pedophile priest, and Gonzalo Duarte of Valparaiso, accused of cover up and sexual misconduct with seminarians.
Last week, a regional prosecutor summoned Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, Archbishop of Santiago, on suspicion of cover-up. He’s expected to give testimony on August 21, and the prosecutor hasn’t ruled out the possibility of recalling his predecessor, Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz, who’s also long been accused by victims of covering up cases of clerical sexual abuse.
Ezzati’s summons came a day after the national prosecutor’s office acknowledged that it was investigating 158 members of the Chilean Church, among them bishops, priests, religious brothers and laity. They’ve been accused of either committing or covering up sexual abuse against minors and adults.
In all, they’ve identified 266 victims, including 178 who were children or teenagers at the time of the abuses. The investigations are into reports filed since 2000, though some of the cases date as far back as 1960.
Three more investigations were opened this week.
In addition, on Wednesday Chile’s national prosecutor, Jorge Abbott, announced he had asked the government to submit a formal request to the Vatican for information about nine clergymen and lay workers who have been accused of sexually abusing minors. The requests are in relation to cases from Santiago, the city of Valparaiso, and the southern region of Araucania.