Chilean archbishop questioned on cover-up of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy

Latin America

FILE PHOTO: Lay members of the Catholic Church participate in a mass of reconciliation, which seeks to bring together all sectors of the community that had become divided since the appointment of Juan Barros as Bishop of Osorno in 2015, at the San Mateo cathedral of Osorno, Chile, Sunday, June 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Fernando Lavoz)

A sex abuse probe involving the Roman Catholic church in Chile is widening. The leader of Chile’s church has been summoned by prosecutors to answer questions about an alleged cover-up of sex abuse of children by the clergy. This comes after prosecutors this week published a report about the scope of abuse by members of the church.

CGTN’s Joel Richards reports.

The leader of the Chilean Catholic Church, Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati, was summoned by prosecutors to answer questions this week. He’s not a witness. He is the target of an investigation into a coverup of sexual abuse of children and adults by the clergy.

The church’s sex abuse scandal continues to shake Chile as prosecutors investigate not only the abuse but also the cover-up by the Church’s hierarchy.

All 34 of Chile’s bishops offered their resignations in May.

The Vatican has now taken an active role. Pope Francis admitted ‘grave errors’ of judgment in his response to the scandal after his visit to Chile earlier this year. And the Pope even invited victims of one priest to the Vatican to ask their forgiveness and listen to their suggestions to stop the abuse.

Jose Andres Murillo was one those victims to meet with the Pope. He is now the director of a foundation that offers support to sex abuse victims.

“We are in the face of a major change,” Jose Andres said. “For a long time, sex abuse of children was taboo and was not talked about, and now we know that between 20 and 40% of the population has been victim of sex abuse before 18 years of age.”

A lawyer for Murillo and two other victims said what happens, in this case, may be used as a warning to other churches.

“All of a sudden the Pope assumes (sic) he made mistakes by defending the abusers and he apologizes publicly for that, and decides to turn the Chilean case into a sort of case study for the international community,” says Juan Pablo Hermosilla. “Everybody from the U.S. to Europe is watching what the church and Pope is doing concerning child abuse cases in Chile because clearly, that is going to be a policy to be applied in rest of the world.”

On Monday, Chile’s national prosecutors published details of the scale of their investigation into the church sex abuse scandal. Dating back decades, with cases across the country, they have investigated more than 150 members of the church and found over 260 victims including children and adults.

Chile was once the most Catholic country in Latin America. But as its hierarchy is implicated in the investigation of widespread abuse and cover-up, more parishioners are turning their backs on it.