A Chilean judge dismissed criminal charges on Monday against the Rev. Fernando Karadima, once one of Chile’s most prominent and respected Roman Catholic priests, allowing him to avoid prosecution over accusations that he had sexually abused three teenagers.
Judge Jessica González said that Father Karadima, 81, had indeed committed the abuse, but she ruled that the five-year statute of limitations on his actions had expired, forcing her to throw the case out.
The accusations emerged publicly last year, but the abuse took place from 1980 to 1995.
The charges have shaken Chile, long ranked among Latin America’s most staunchly Catholic countries. Father Karadima wielded broad influence as the parish priest of one of Santiago’s top churches.
The ruling allows Father Karadima to avoid prison. A Vatican inquiry also found him guilty of abusing minors, and in February the Vatican ordered him to retire to a life of prayer and penitence. Church officials moved him to a convent, where he is required to be in seclusion, but he remains in Santiago, the capital.
Report by Adhir Roy Chowdury