The Pope defrocks a priest over sexual abuse accusations

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Reverend Cristián Precht, known for his illustrious work in defense of human rights during Augusto Pinochet’s regime, has been defrocked by the Vatican, revealed a communique from the Santiago Church on Saturday Sept 15.

Related to new accusations against Precht around the sexual abuse of minors, this is the gravest sanction available to the Vatican, and the communique assured that the decision cannot be appealed.

Precht has been in the public eye in relation to the ongoing sexual abuse scandals which have rocked the Church since 2012, when he was given a five-year ban on any clerical activity due to “abusive behaviour with minors and over-age individuals,” reported La Tercera.

This sanction was completed in December 2017, but in March this year, more accusations were pitted against him as well as four other members of the Congregation of Marista Brothers for “illicit association, rape, sexual abuse, and favouring prostitution of minors.” The Marista Brothers’ headquarters were recently searched by police to find more evidence in the ongoing abuse cases.

On Aug. 10, the Archbishop of Santiago Ricardo Ezzati sent Precht’s record to the Vatican. Precht, however, applied for civil protection from the Archbishop (who also stands accused of covering up sexual abuse in the Church) and won the case.

However, the Archbishop of Santiago’s Judicial Vicar, Jaime Ortiz de Lazcano, told La Tercera that this most recent sanction from the Vatican is not related to his previous crimes, which he has already been punished for.

“Beyond the Maristas case, there have been at least two new accusations that are related to the same behaviour of sexual abuse against minors,” Ortiz de Lazcano said. “All this, together with the Marista case, was dutifully sent to the Vatican.”

Precht, along with the four others accused in the Marista case, is currently facing justice for their actions in the civil court.

Eneas Espinoza, an ex-student of the Alonso de Ercilla Institute formed part of the judicial action against Precht, and hailed the Pope’s decision as “good news.”

“Now comes the most important part, which has to do with who protected him, who covered up for him, and how he could commit these crimes for so many years and remain impune,” he told La Tercera. “This is also very important for me.”

Jaime Concha, another individual who brought accusations against Precht, expressed his approval for the recent measure, adding that Precht is now “a citizen equal to us and will have to face justice.”

El Tiempo reported that the Chilean Justice system has 119 cases open related to sexual abuse of minors in temples or within Catholic clergy members.