Fall of a high and mighty Jesuit

The keys to the fall of Felipe Berríos

Inappropriate conduct at school retreats, voluntary work by high school and university students and events that occurred within the framework of the Sacrament of Confession, settled the expulsion of the priest from the Society of Jesus. By order of the Vatican, he was also prohibited from the public exercise of the priesthood and all pastoral contact with minors for a period of 10 years.

On Thursday, 9 March 2023, on the site of the Episcopal Conference of Chile www.iglesia.cl, a statement from the Jesuits was released in which they reported the instruction given to them by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Vatican to initiate a Criminal Administrative Process regarding Felipe Berríos del Solar based on the Previous Canonical Investigation carried out by the lawyer María Elena Santibáñez the previous year, which determined that the complaints of sexual abuse against him were “credible.”

The complaint that gave rise to the case against Felipe Berríos

This process determined that the congregation adopted the decision to expel him and prohibit him, by order of the Vatican, from the public exercise of the priesthood and all pastoral contact with minors for a period of 10 years.

The Society of Jesus considers that Felipe Berríos is “guilty of crimes against the sixth commandment committed with minors and of crimes of solicitation to sin against the sixth commandment, during or on the occasion of confession.”

With this, the Society of Jesus severs its relationship with the figure with the greatest public exposure that the congregation had in the country, defined by the theologian Marcial Sánchez as “one of the last credible bastions of the Church” and with links in high spheres of the power, sport and culture, like the soccer coach Marcelo Bielsa and the writer Isabel Allende (a character in her novel Violeta was inspired by him).

Dismissal of a complaint

In June 2022, the 12th Guarantee Court definitively dismissed the complaint that existed against him, sponsored by the Trust Foundation, regarding alleged acts of sexual connotation, the only one formalized in criminal proceedings in civil justice. His lawyer, Julián López, argued that there was no crime, which was accepted by the court.

“This resolution is a very important first step to fulfill what I announced to you from the first day, which is my interest in having my innocence established in a transparent and public manner,” Berríos then stated in a letter that he sent to those close to him. La Tercera had access.

Church reports eight cases

In the letter after being dismissed, Berríos explains that "the Court ordered, in the same resolution, that the information accumulated during the investigation in relation to six other testimonies be sent to the 34th Criminal Court of Santiago given that, because it refers to facts prior to 2005, it is the court of the old system that is responsible for ruling on them.”

According to the statement released by the Jesuits this Friday, the prior canonical investigation of the external lawyer, María Elena Santibáñez, confirmed the plausibility of acts of a sexual nature, reported by seven women, who were between 14 and 23 years old when they occurred. Subsequently, in the criminal administrative process led by the judicial vicar of the Archdiocese of Córdoba, Dante Simón, an eighth complaint was investigated.

The first complainant was a woman who claims to have been sexually abused by the priest in 2004, when she was a minor and the popular religious man was the spiritual guide of her family.

Initially, the complainants had chosen to keep the case in canonical headquarters, however, they decided to deliver details of their accusations against the religious also before the ordinary justice system to establish a “judicial truth” with the help of their testimonies, although several of the facts are prescribed. .

According to a letter from the provincial of the Society of Jesus Gabriel Roblero.

The accusations would correspond to “events that occurred between 1993 and 2009, which would have affected seven women between the ages of 14, the youngest, and the oldest of them, 22 or 23 years old. Three of these behaviors would have been committed on school retreats, two in voluntary work (in one case, from high school, and in the other, from university students). Finally, in three cases these would involve events that occurred within the celebration of the Sacrament of Confession. "The acts involving minors and the sacrament of Confession are among the most serious crimes in the legislation of the Church."

The “advice” to the Public Ministry in investigations of abuses

In 2018, when he was already settled in the Luz Divina de La Chimba camp, in Antofagasta, Berríos was contacted by the regional prosecutor of O'Higgins, Emiliano Arias, a prosecutor who needed to evaluate scenarios in an investigation that he was developing.

The conversations between Felipe Berríos and prosecutor Arias before the seizure of the files

Arias led a historic seizure in the Ecclesiastical Court, the Archbishopric of Santiago and the Diocese of Rancagua of files on priests involved in sexual abuse of minors and before that operation he requested information from Berríos regarding how investigations operate in the church and the procedures that apply when complaints are received.

Thus, in several telephone conversations, Berríos explained how institutions had historically worked in this type of case. Some time later, it would be his turn to face similar processes.

The “veto” of his participation in the Boric government

Berríos studied at the San Ignacio El Bosque School and entered the Society of Jesus in 1977. There, he carried out three years of missions in Tanzania, Africa, to be ordained a priest in 1989, a role marked by his activities in the NGO Techo, entity with presence in twenty countries currently.

In March 2022, upon taking over the Ministry of Housing, former socialist parliamentarian Carlos Montes considered incorporating Berríos into his team, due to his experience as chaplain of Un Techo para Chile in the years of reconstruction after the 2010 earthquake and his work. of years with that institution in camps. The news was announced by the Jesuits and celebrated by figures such as Governor Claudio Orrego. “Those of us who know his leadership, empathy and courage know that it will be a tremendous contribution to advancing this difficult and complex problem,” the regional authority highlighted then.

From the government of President Boric, however, they expressed their reluctance to work with him, which constituted the first communication “blip” of the administration that he assumed in those days. Thus, within the political committee, the Minister of Women and Gender Equality, Antonia Orellana, warned of the antibodies that Berríos generated in sectors of the left - especially feminists -, even during the campaign period, as a result of the questions for the behavior of the Jesuits in cases of abuse against minors in their congregation.

Aware of the rejection, the founder of TECHO issued a statement to indicate that he was declining the invitation of the head of Minvu.

His resignation from the Jesuits and discomfort with his presence in La Chimba

During the Church's investigation against him, Berríos, instructed by his congregation, had to leave the Antofagasta camp where he resided and settle in Santiago. These “precautionary measures” prevented his return, which motivated him to leave the order to which he joined in 1977 at the age of 21.

Berríos, in the first instance, informed his inner circle of his determination, and in November 2022 he chose to send a letter addressed to the Jesuits in which he criticized the congregation for not providing support during the process against him, reiterating the questions. which at the time he expressed due to the “ambiguity” with which they faced the complaints against him and accused “mistreatment.”

“They have put me in a situation where it is impossible for me to live Jesuit obedience,” he said.

Although the priest made official his intention to leave the congregation, a series of procedures remained for that to happen.

He also returned to the north and reappeared publicly in an activity at the La Chimba Training Center, of the Recrea Foundation. The congregation recognized that the event constituted “a failure to comply with the precautionary measures decreed” within the framework of the canonical procedure carried out with respect to the religious.


Cathcon:  The following article from 2018 of Father Berrios criticising the Pope is rather ironic in the circumstances, as well as pointing to the Pope's blind eye turning in these issues.

Felipe Berríos criticizes the presence of Juan Barros at Pope Francis' mass: “He attacks and violates many people”

“With everything the Pope has said, he could have had a certain dignity if he had not gone,” said the Jesuit priest.

In an interview with Chilevisión, the Jesuit priest, Felipe Berríos, criticized the presence of the questioned bishop of Osorno, Juan Barros, at the mass mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

“I have to be fair, just as I believe that it is a provocation that certain groups cause violence, the presence of Barros among the bishops is also a provocation. With everything the Pope has said, he could have had a certain dignity if he had not gone,” Berríos stated.

This morning after Michelle Bachelet's welcome speech in La Moneda, the Supreme Pontiff asked for forgiveness for the abuse committed against minors by ministers of the Church.

“I cannot help but express pain and shame at the irreparable harm caused to children by ministers of the Church,” said Jorge Bergoglio.

In 2015, Juan Barros was appointed bishop of Osorno by the Pope amid controversy and protests over his closeness to the priest Fernando Karadima, suspended for life after being accused of sexual abuse against minors.

There are those who accuse Barros of having covered up Karadima's crimes, which is why his presence at the massive religious ceremony aroused the discomfort of several.

“It leaves the Pope in a complicated situation. He is violent for many people who are there. It bothers me, because it contradicts everything the Pope has said,” added Berríos.

Furthermore, the Jesuit priest described it as a “lack of delicacy” for Barros not to resign and for him to appear in public, due to his relationship with Karadima.


Background:  The Karadima Case