The Marist Brothers in Chile opened a canonical investigation Friday into the sexual abuse accusations shaking their order with the first testimony from one of the alleged victims.
Isaac Givovich Contador testified for more than three hours to the Salesian priest in charge of the investigation, David Albornoz. When he left, a visibly affected Givovich was unable to talk to reporters at a news conference even though he was to speak on behalf of four other victims.
"What Isaac has just gone through in this place is part of a tremendously traumatic and re-victimizing process," said Jose Andres Murillo, one of the victims of Chilean priest Fernando Karadima, the most visible face of sexual abuse in the South American country. Karadima's case is not related to the Marists.
Murillo, who accompanied Givovich during his testimony, said the canonical process is "not transparent" and the abuse victims have more trust in Chile's justice system.
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"We do not have full confidence in this canonical process," he said. "The main process that Isaac and the other survivors are taking to seek justice will be in the Chilean criminal courts."
The Marists are not priests, but a religious order dedicated to education. It has schools in several countries.
The Marist brothers and Salesians did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A document obtained by The Associated Press last year indicated that the Marists in Chile said a brother who worked at two of the order's schools had abused at least 14 minors from the 1970s until 2000. A statement by the Marists to parents and teachers said the order had begun legal action against Abel Perez.
The case came to light in 2017 when former students began organizing on the internet and telling their stories.