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Pope Francis expels Chilean priest over sexual abuse allegations

POPE Francis has defrocked a Chilean Catholic Priest, Cristian Precht Bañados, following allegations of sexual abuse against him.

Chile has been at the forefront of countries with the highest number of sexual abuse cases, especially of minors. This had led to all the Catholic Bishops in the country tendering their resignation letters to Pope Francis in May this year, a move that was described as unprecedented in the history of the Catholic church.

In the resignation letter, the bishops said they had placed the issue “in the hands of the Holy Father so that he might freely decide for each one of us”.

The CNN reports that the expulsion of Father Precht is the first formal resignation the Pope has decreed since the Bishops’ resignation in May. The Priest had been suspended in 2012 from active priestly practice for five years after the Archbishop of Santiago ordered a criminal investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against him.

The Archbishop issued a statement at the time saying that investigations established “verifiable reports of abusive behaviour with adults and minors” against Precht. However, Precht has not been charged with any crimes by Chilean authorities, but he was not allowed to leave the country’s capital, Santiago, pending the completion of investigations.

When the allegations of sexual abuse were first made against Precht in 2013, he denied “ever forcing anyone’s will, be it an adult or a minor, woman or man”. Again, in February 2018, when the issue came up again, he released a statement saying: “I absolutely deny participating, in any way, in the acts which I’m slanderously being accused of. I will defend my personal and clerical honour in every way I can and any time it’s violated.”

Precht was quite popular in Chile and known for being a fierce defender of human rights during the Chilean dictatorship. His defrocking comes as the Catholic Church continues to face criticism over its response to myriad allegations of sexual abuse against Catholic clergy over the years.

Pope Francis has called a meeting of all the Presidents of the Bishops Conferences of all the countries of the world to come up with ways to stop the issue of sexual abuse in the church. The meeting is expected to hold in February 2019.

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