Abuse victims ask cardinals be kept from conclave

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 06, 2013 00:15 hrs

Advocates for victims of clerical sex abuse in Chile, Mexico and Italy asked Tuesday for three cardinals to withdraw from the papal conclave, accusing them of covering up crimes.

The victims in Chile say Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz failed to act on accusations that they were abused by the Rev. Fernando Karadima, who was long one of the country's most popular priests. They say the cardinal, who will vote for the successor to Pope Benedict XVI, declined to carry out a probe and refused to even meet them.

"My clients say it's incongruent and disrespectful to all the victims, not only Karadima's but those of other priests who abused minors when he was an archbishop," Juan Pablo Hermosilla, the victims' lawyer told The Associated Press.

"It's evident that he had knowledge of the complaints of abuse, which other priests believed to be true, and he did nothing," Hermosilla said. "He could have stopped this at the time, but for some reason he didn't. He looked the other way."

In Mexico, meanwhile, advocates for victims of the disgraced Rev. Marcial Maciel and other priests said they were presenting a petition demanding that Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera stay away from the conclave.

"Norberto, covering up and not acting to prevent sexual abuses of children by pedophile priests strips you of the moral stature required to participate in the election of the new leader of the Catholic Church," they said in a petition posted online by former priest Alberto Athie, co-author of a book denouncing pedophile clerics including Maciel, founder of the Legionnaries of Christ.

In Italy, victims of an abusive priest have launched a petition on www.change.org trying to keep Cardinal Domenico Calcagno out of the conclave.

Three men who said they were abused by the Rev. Nello Giraudo, a Savona-area priest, went on national television this week to accuse Calcagno of having known about the accusations and yet didn't report him to police.

Giraudo last year received a year's suspended sentence by an Italian court in a plea bargain after being accused of abusing dozens of minors. Calcagno and other bishops involved in his repeated transfers from parish to parish refused to comment.

One of the allegations against Rivera is linked to similar complaints about California Cardinal Roger Mahony, who also has faced, and rejected, calls to avoid the conclave.

Both Mahony and Rivera were accused in court actions of conspiring to shelter a Mexican pedophile priest accused of abusing children in both their jurisdictions. Both have repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

The Chilean 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 allegations were reported to church authorities, but an internal investigation in Errazuriz's archdiocese was frozen.

The case was revived in 2010 after press reports about the case, and Errazuriz acknowledged in an interview on state television: "There is something to these pedophilia abuses," but said there "just a few, thank God."

The Vatican sanctioned Karadima by ordering him to a life of "penitence and prayer" and Errazuriz issued an apology to some victims in 2011.

A Chilean judge later dismissed a criminal case because the statute of limitations had expired, but she determined the abuse allegations were truthful.

Errazuriz denied any cover-up.

"The church condemned this, something that the courts failed to do. It's very difficult to talk about a cover up," he told Chilean journalists last week in Rome.

Hermosilla, the lawyer representing the people accusing Karadima, said Errazuriz's latest comments contrast with the earlier apology.

"It would be one thing if he said: 'I'm sorry, I made a mistake,' and he acted humbly," Hermosilla said. "But no. He's saying: 'I'm going to participate in the conclave and at the same time I assume this arrogant vision that I had years ago saying: I didn't do anything wrong and this is slander.'"


Luis Andres Henao on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LuisAndresHenao

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