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article imageSex abuse at Chilean church school was an unending 'perverse game': victim

By Giovanna FLEITAS (AFP)     Feb 24, 2018 in World

Sexual abuse at the hands of priests marked the childhood of Jaime Concha since the day when, at age 10, he entered a school run by the Marist Brothers religious order in Santiago.

He is now 55 years old and a doctor. After all these years, his case is one of dozens finally being investigated by the Catholic Church in Chile -- a church rocked by the scale of a sex-abuse scandal that tainted the recent visit of Pope Francis.

Concha told AFP his treatment at the hands of the Marist Brothers was like "an everlasting perverse game."

He says he has now broken decades of silence about his childhood trauma to try to come to terms with the devastation it has wreaked on his life since he first entered the order's Alonso de Ercilla school in Santiago.

"There was a real conspiracy where everyone was linked and they were waiting for us," said Concha, referring to the religious brothers.

"They used excuses like the scout camp, the vocational exam or the retreat to abuse us."

- 'Sickening' first communion -

During a visit to Chile last month  Pope Francis asked forgiveness for the child sex-abuse scandals ...
During a visit to Chile last month, Pope Francis asked forgiveness for the child sex-abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church in that country
Luca Zennaro, POOL/AFP/File

Jaime remembers his first holy communion day as "sickening," as he had to receive the communion wafer from the same priest who had abused him.

"As a child, what was I going to say about what happened to me?" asked Concha.

"I ended up not talking, being quiet because of fear, because of shame afterward."

The abuse began in the classroom and continued in school hallways and hidden corners of the school grounds, including the Marist Brothers' living quarters and while away camping with the Boy Scouts.

Jaime directly accused two Marist Brothers, Abel Perez and Jose Monasterio, of abusing him.

Perez was expelled from the community after being investigated for abuse by the church, and is currently being prosecuted for abuse of boys in his care. Monasterio has since died.

"Brother Abel would sit me on his legs. He would start talking to me, and all I wanted was for him to do what he had to do and do it quickly, so I did not even listen to what he was saying."

"It was an excuse to grab me, and then the only thing I could do was almost to try to get out of my own body," recalled Concha.

- Years of trauma -

Only in August -- seven years after Perez had confessed to continually abusing boys over three decades -- did the Marist Brothers' community file a complaint with the Chilean prosecutor's office.

It accused him of sexually abusing 14 minors in two schools belonging to the order.

The order removed him from all contact with children and sent him to a community residence in Peru, local media reported.

"I listen to that official truth and I'm confronted by traumatic memories," said Concha.

"I am the evidence that in Chile, while the Pinochet dictatorship was torturing people and systematically violating human rights, the human rights of me and my classmates at school at the same time, between 1973 and 1978, were also being violated" by the church.

He says "an avalanche" of memories came to him last September, when he finally decided to open up about his experiences to a meeting of former students.

After 45 years of being "hooked by the terror, by the anguish" that ruined his childhood, Concha said that now, by speaking up, he can save others from suffering his fate.

Supported by the Foundation for Trust -- formed by four victims of influential Chilean teaching priest Fernando Karadima -- Concha and other victims went to the courts to seek justice.

Karadima was accused in 2010 of abusing children, and in 2011 the Vatican ordered the then 80-year-old priest to retire to a "life of prayer and penitence."

But civil charges against him were dropped by the courts for lack of evidence.

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