Former nuns of the Congregation of the Good Samaritan in Chile reported a series of sexual abuses committed by priests visiting the community, which belongs to the Diocese of Talca and is dedicated to caring for the sick.
The new accusations come amid a growing sexual abuse scandal rocking the Church in Chile that led Pope Francis to summon the bishops to the Vatican in May to address the crisis, their resignation en masse, and the pope accepting some of the resignations.
Currently this diocese in Southern Chile has as apostolic administrator Bishop Galo Fernandez Villaseca, after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of the local bishop, Horacio Valenzuela.
In a report broadcast July 24 by Televisión Nacional de Chile, five former nuns said that there was sexual abuse and the abuse of authority inside the congregation. They added that they were mistreated when they reported the incidents to the superior.
“My silence stings my conscience. We have more than 23 sisters who in one year were expelled from the congregation because they were sexually abused, there was abuse of authority,” said Yolanda Tondreaux, who in the report charged that she was harassed by a priest.
Without mentioning names, the women charged that at least three priests sexually abused the nuns. They were able to deliver their testimonies to Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu when they came to Chile the second time to gather information on abuse cases.
Another of the complainants, Eliana Macías, said she was abused by a priest who during the night “would go into the nuns' rooms.”
Consuelo Gómez charged that she was the victim of sexual abuse by nuns of the same community:
The former nuns said that when they related the incidents to the superior, Patricia Ibarra Gómez, she mistreated them until they were expelled from the community.
The complainants maintained that the then local bishop Horacio Valenzuela was aware of these events but did nothing.
Tondreaux, who also served in the Apostolic Nunciature of Chile, said in addition that Bishop Valenzuela and the priest Fernando Karadima – found guilty of sexual abuse by the Vatican in 2011 – received checks with huge amounts of money, without specifying from whom.
On May 29 the diocesan congregation issued a statement acknowledging one case of abuse, that of Consuelo Gómez, and asked forgiveness. However, when the journalist doing the television interview consulted them regarding the new complaints they provided no comment.
Bishop Galo Fernández responded in the report, saying: “You see the pain there, where there's a lot of pain and situations that merit being investigated with an openness to find the truth and to listen."
He also added that the former religious need to be listened to “not only in the framework of a criminal investigation in order to verify or not, but to listen so that the situations and pain they have experienced can hit home.”
The Apostolic Administrator stressed that the congregation of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan “have a beautiful history, but that does not necessarily mean that there could not have been situations that were clearly out of line."
Regarding the total lack of support the women were left in after they were expelled from the community, Bishop Galo said that “A congregation clearly has a duty to care for the people that leave as well as examining the conditions under which they left. It's a duty.”
Finally, concerning the poor reception given to the victims by the Church authorities, the bishop said that “there's a new sensitivity today in the culture and also by the Church.”
“There are things that are not normal, that aren't right, and it's our responsibility to face them, correct them and where there has been a crime there certainly ought to be sanctions.”
This article was originally published by our Spanish language sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.