Chilean Priest, a Pinochet Supporter, Draws Fire

Article excerpt

He's a regular on Mother Angelica's network

Church officials here are under growing pressure to remove Fr. Raul Hasbun, a controversial TV figure, from Chile's Catholic University channel.

Hasbun is a Santiago diocesan priest and a strong supporter of former dictator Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, under arrest in London following an extradition request by Spanish courts,

Hasbun, 65, has a high profile in Chile. For many years he has delivered a "spiritual commentary" during the Catholic University channel's Friday evening news. He also conducts a regular feature on the Spanish-language edition of Mother Angelica's EWTN.

His words have irritated many Chileans in recent months. At a military gathering in August, he referred to Chilean Socialists as "parasites" and "bloodsuckers." Despite the Socialists' "intrinsically unpatriotic" attitudes, he said, some people are willing to allow them to "guide the country's destiny at the highest levels." The front-runner in Chile's upcoming presidential electoral race is Socialist Ricardo Lagos.

The Socialists immediately announced a lawsuit against the priest; they withdrew it in early September, however, calling instead for an apology.

The apology has not been forthcoming.

Coming at a moment when church authorities are attempting to promote a climate of national unity, Hasbun's remarks provoked a vigorous response from church officials.

Santiago Archbishop Francisco Javier Errazuriz issued what amounted to a public reprimand, telling the press he was "deeply pained" by Hasbun's expressions. "This is not the way we'd like a priest of the Santiago church to speak," he added.

The priest's remarks "have been damaging. They hamper our efforts to heal the wounds of the past," declared Bishop Manuel Camilo Vial of San Felipe, general secretary of the Chilean Bishops' Conference. Bishop Tomas Gonzalez of Punta Arenas said that Hasbun's words "have nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus."

Two Chilean bishops, Fernando Ariztia of Copiapo and Carlos Camus of Linares called for the priest's ouster from the Catholic University TV channel. They revealed that several months ago a group of bishops approached Archbishop Errazuriz privately, requesting that Hasbun's TV spot be canceled. …