SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A prominent Chilean priest who was ordered by the Vatican to never again celebrate a public Mass as punishment for sexually abusing altar boys has been photographed apparently defying the order.
Chile's top church leaders confirmed the Rev. Fernando Karadima's act of insubordination Friday and sent the case to the Vatican for investigation. The photos were taken Dec. 4, but they were only released this week by Juan Carlos Cruz, a journalist and one of Karadima's victims.
"It's a very painful situation that shows that this priest continues to do as he pleases," Cruz told The Associated Press. "It's a slap in the face for the victims of his abuse. He should be in jail but instead he's still being protected by the church."
The Roman Catholic Church retains a firm grip on Chilean society, although in recent years its influence has waned after scandals in which priests have been accused of molesting children. Victims say Karadima began abusing them at his residence at the Sacred Heart of Jesus church in Santiago about 20 years ago, when they were between 14 and 17 years old.
The Vatican sanctioned Karadima by ordering him to a life of "penitence and prayer" in 2011. He was also barred from celebrating Mass in public, from hearing confessions or offering spiritual direction and from having contact with his ex-parishioners. A Chilean judge later dismissed a criminal case because the statute of limitations had expired, but she determined the abuse allegations were truthful.
The timing of the photos' release appeared aimed at embarrassing both the current and former archbishops of Santiago, who were in Rome for Saturday's ceremony to name current Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello a cardinal.
The victims in Chile say the retired archbishop, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, failed to act on accusations that they were abused by Karadima, who was long one of the country's most popular priests. They say the cardinal declined to even meet them.
The sentence Karadima received is one often used for elderly priests who sexually abused children years ago: Rather than subject the priests and victims to a lengthy church trial, which might not end before the priest in question dies, the Vatican can impose an administrative sanction such as the one Karadima received, which essentially renders the man a priest in name only.
The same sentence was handed down against the notorious Rev. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ religious order, who sexually abused his seminarians.
Under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican streamlined its procedures to allow for such swifter, administrative sanctions to punish priests when the evidence against them is overwhelming.
Nicole Winfield reported from Rome.
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