Chile court clears ex-Catholic bishop of sex crime charges

SANTIAGO – A Chilean appeals court has ratified the dismissal of sex crime charges against a former Roman Catholic bishop, a week after Pope Francis visited the Latin American nation.

The court ruled Friday there wasn’t enough evidence against the Rev. Marco Antonio Ordenes Fernandez, who resigned as bishop of Iquique in 2012 while under Vatican investigation.

Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Ordenes as the church investigated the allegations against him.

He was accused of abusing an altar boy and acknowledged “an imprudent act,” but said the youth was 17 when they met and that their relationship began when the man was no longer underage.

His accuser said the abuse began when he was 15. He said at first it was forced, but they later became lovers.

Pope Francis offers partial apology to Chile sex abuse victims

The ruling came a week after Pope Francis’ visit to Chile was marked by protests over the church’s handling of sex abuse cases involving other clerics, notably those linked to the former Rev. Fernando Karadima, who had been a prominent priest.

During his visit, the pontiff expressed “pain and shame for the damage to the children on the part of members of the church,” though he angered some Chileans by defending Bishop Juan Barrios, who had been accused of covering up crimes committed by others. Francis said there was no evidence of that.