Investigations into alleged sexual abusers within the Chilean episcopacy are escalating after police raids in Temuco and Villarrica led to the confiscation of dozens of documents believed to be connected to additional abuse cases.
Chilean Police Raid Catholic Church Offices Amid Abuse Probe
Prosecutor Italo Ortega led the raids – which began first in Temuco and then Villarrica – revealed boxes of papers detailing investigations led by the Catholic church against five priests suspected of child molestation and sexual abuse.
"As there was no voluntary delivery then we requested the authorization that corresponds to the Court of Guarantee, we made the presentation of the background and the Court ruled that the seizure proceed," said the prosecutor of Temuco, Roberto Garrido.
Elsewhere in Santiago, former Chilean Priest Oscar Muñoz is being held in preventive detention, accused of sexual abuse and the rape of at least seven minors between the ages of 11 and 17. Muñoz was arrested in Santiago, Thursday and was transferred to Rancagua.
The case of the allegedly abused youths was presented by Prosecutor Emiliano Arias, covering crimes that took place between the years 2002 and 2018 from Santiago to Rancagua.
"Sick child, all minors, with sexual inexperience, who were sexually assaulted in the home of the accused, in the home of those caring for the child, in the home of the victims," Arias said of the 56-year old prelate who was entrusted with the Archdiocese of Santiago and worked as the right-hand man to Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati.
Following the arrest, Ezzati received the news with some distress and offered his sincerest apologies to the victims, asserting his intention to assist police in their pursuit for justice.
Police are also looking into the possibility of accomplices to the crimes as well as a possible pedophile network of roughly 14 priests, suspected of purchasing sexual favors, who have either been suspended or are currently under investigation.
Last month, Pope Francis accused the Chilean church of "gross negligence" in handling previous claims that children had been abused, and a culture of "cover-ups" which remains intact. The pontiff has accepted the resignation of five bishops, while another 26 resignations are still pending.