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Chilean federal police investigating Catholic priest in sex abuse case

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The Rev. Fernando Karadima is accused of sexually abusing four minors
  • Karadima has denied the abuse allegations, published reports say
  • He has not been charged with any crime

Santiago, Chile (CNN) -- Chilean federal police are investigating a Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing four minors, a spokeswoman said Monday.

The Rev. Fernando Karadima is already under investigation by the Vatican on the accusations, the archbishop of Santiago said in June.

Karadima has not been charged with any crime and has denied the abuse accusations. He has said he welcomes the investigation, published reports said.

The accusations against the priest first reached the church in May 2005, Archbishop Francisco Errazuriz wrote in a letter to parishioners earlier this year. He cautioned that the investigation did not mean that the priest was guilty, but that the church had made the decision to investigate all such claims.

The accusers went public on an investigative television show in April of this year. One of the accusers who came forward, James Hamilton, told the show that he met Karadima after he lost his father and sought to join a church group that he led. In short order, Karadima offered to be a father to Hamilton, and then a "special relationship" started, he said.

Hamilton also said that he witnessed Karadima partake in genital touching and "accidental" kisses with certain members of his group. Three others in Karadima's group also claimed similar harassment against him.

The investigative show also included a comment from Karadima's attorney, who said that all the accusers were not minors, but adults, when they joined the group.

Spokeswoman Macarena Olivares of Chile's Investigative Police acknowledged Monday that the department also is investigating the priest, but she declined to say what the investigation entails because it is ongoing.

A criminal complaint against Karadima by the four was filed in April, according to reports.

Errazuriz said in June that he decided to ask the Vatican to intercede after learning of the grave sexual misconduct accusations against the 80-year-old priest.

"The strong accusations, their painful airing on television, the scandal they have provoked and the investigative process have produced in our community sentiments of suffering, disorder and lack of faith," Errazuriz said.

The archbishop said he also asked the Vatican to lift the statute of limitations on any possible infractions because some of the accusations date back many years. He has requested that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith investigate the matter, in which case a three-judge panel would take over. Errazuriz said he expects a ruling this year.

The priest has been removed from all public ministry, Errazuriz said.

CNN's Arthur Brice contributed to this report.