Pope Defrocks Chilean Priest amid Worldwide Sex Scandals
Pope Francis expelled Reverend Cristian Precht Bañado, a Chilean priest, under investigation for sexual abuse of children. The expulsion of Bañado was the first formal resignation ordered by the Pope since May when every bishop in Chile offered to resign after the uncovering of a massive sexual abuse scandal. According to CNN, “the simultaneous offering of resignation of all bishops in a country was unprecedented in the modern history of the Catholic Church.”
Precht, a well known priest, was a former vicar of the church’s Vicariate of Solidarity human rights group, which challenged the military regime of ex-dictator, Augusto Pinochet, to end the abduction and torture of Chilean citizens.
In more recent years, Precht’s reputation had been tarnished by repeated allegations of sexual abuse. CNN reports that in 2012 Precht was suspended from practicing in the ministry for five years, after the Archbishop of Santiago ordered an investigation into the allegations. The New York Times states the religious leader was first accused of sexual abuse after allegations arose against members of the Marist Brothers religious community. At that time, the archbishop issued a statement saying that verifiable reports of abusive behavior against adults and minors were found.
Despite never being charged, Precht was not allowed to leave the country’s capital, Santiago, until the completion of the church investigation.
In 2013, Precht issued a statement denying "ever forcing anyone's will, be it an adult or a minor, woman or man."
This year, Precht denied the allegations further in a letter to the head of Chilean newspaper La Tercera.
"I absolutely deny participating, in any way, in the acts which I'm slanderously being accused of," he told the newspaper. "I will defend my personal and clerical honor in every way I can and any time it's violated."
Precht was formerly a well liked priest in the country due to his protection of human rights.
After the announcement of his expulsion, the Church of Santiago reported that the decision was unappealable. The church confirmed the information on their website, “The resignation of the clerical state ‘ex officio et pro bono Ecclesiae’ and the dispensation form all the obligations attached to the sacred ordination of Rev. Cristian Precht Bañados were decreed.”
“The same decree establishes that the bishop communicate the new canonical situation of the affected to the people of God as soon as possible.”
Pope Francis’s announcement of the expulsion came as Chilean authorities raided four dioceses on Sept. 14 looking for new sexual abuse allegations and evidence that suggests that the Catholic Church covered up prior allegations.
Precht’s expulsion is just the latest blow in an ongoing saga of sexual abuse allegations against the Catholic Church worldwide. A series of scandals have been uncovered in Chile, the United States, Australia, and Ireland, which have harmed the reputation of the Vatican.