Chile au­thor­i­ties raid sites linked to church sex abuse

The Nation - - WORLD -

PO­LICE HAVE­seized church files in raids in Santiago and Rancagua, as the Catholic Church scram­bles to try to put a bet­ter face on a sex abuse scan­dal that has rocked Chile.

The sur­prise oper­a­tions came as Mal­tese arch­bishop Charles Sci­cluna and fel­low pa­pal en­voy Jordi Ber­tomeu are vis­it­ing for a sec­ond time to take wit­ness state­ments from vic­tims of sex­ual abuse in the church and pro­vide in­struc­tion to Chilean dio­ce­ses to re­spond ad­e­quately to any new com­plaints.

Pros­e­cu­tor Emil­iano Arias con­firmed two “land­mark” raids and said he was pleased with how they went. Pre­cisely be­cause church of­fi­cials long were not sub­ject to civil­ian author­ity in Chile, this marked a dra­matic shift.

“This is not an in­ves­ti­ga­tion against the Catholic church,” Arias said, but rather an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of re­ports of sex abuse by mem­bers of the church who abused mi­nors.

Sev­eral mem­bers of the church hi­er­ar­chy, in­clud­ing for­mer bishop Juan Bar­ros, are ac­cused by vic­tims of ig­nor­ing and cov­er­ing up years of child abuse by Chilean paedophile priest Fer­nando Karadima dur­ing the 1980s and 1990s.

Pope Fran­cis ap­pointed 61-yearold Bar­ros as bishop of Osorno in 2015, when vic­tims’ al­le­ga­tions against him were al­ready widely known.

The pon­tiff him­self be­came mired in the scan­dal when, dur­ing a trip to Chile in Jan­uary, he de­fended Bar­ros, who was ac­cused of cov­er­ing up Karadima’s wrong­do­ing.

Karadima was sus­pended for life by the Vat­i­can over the al­le­ga­tions of child mo­lesta­tion, and Bar­ros was one of three bish­ops whose res­ig­na­tions Fran­cis ac­cepted on Monday.

Al­le­ga­tions

Sci­cluna and Ber­tomeu vis­ited Chile in Fe­bru­ary to in­ves­ti­gate the al­le­ga­tions and meet with vic­tims. Their re­port to Rome noted the ex­is­tence of a “cul­ture of abuse” within the Chilean Church.

In a let­ter to Chileans re­leased at the end of last month, the pon­tiff voiced “shame” that the Catholic Church failed “to lis­ten and re­act in time” to the al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual abuse by Chilean clergy.

He has since re­ceived two groups of Karadima’s vic­tims at the Vat­i­can.

Since 2000, about 80 Catholic priests have been re­ported to au­thor­i­ties in Chile for al­leged sex­ual abuse.

Ear­lier Sci­clina told re­porters “it is so im­por­tant to show a sign of will­ing­ness to co­op­er­ate”.

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