After a Vatican envoy confirmed this year that the Roman Catholic Church in Chile had for decades allowed sexual abuse
to go unchecked, the pope apologized, met with victims and reluctantly accepted the resignation of some bishops —
after the country’s clerical hierarchy offered to quit in May.
In July 2018, prosecutors in Chile said they were investigating
36 cases of sexual abuse against Catholic priests, bishops and lay persons. The investigations are among 144 reports of
sexual abuse implicating 158 Church workers made since 2000, they added in a statement.
In addition to the 36 cases under investigation, 108 have been closed, with 23 people convicted, two exonerated, and 22 cases
sent to another judicial office because they alleged crimes committed before the year 2000. The rest struck off for lack of
evidence or other reasons, the dossier found.
Of those implicated in wrongdoing, it said, 139 were bishops, priests or deacons. Of the 266 alleged victims, 178 were children and teenagers.
In May, Pope Francis summoned Chile’s 34 bishops to Rome where he challenged them over the contents of a report compiled by his top sex
abuse investigator that accused them of “grave negligence” in investigating allegations that children were abused and
suggested evidence of sex crimes was destroyed.
Anne Barrett-Doyle, of the U.S. press group Bishop Accountability, told Reuters that the cases reported to the civil authorities
likely represented a “drop in the ocean” compared to the number of cases only reported to Church
authorities and others not reported at all.
On a visit to Chile, the pope denounced survivors who said the church had covered up sexual abuse and crimes,
robustly defending a bishop he had appointed in the face of objections. The pope was later forced to admit he made
“grave errors” of judgment, launch an investigation into abuse and the cover-up in the country, and accept the
resignation of the bishop he had championed.
August 2018, the Chilean authorities raided the headquarters of the Catholic church’s episcopal conference,
presumably in search of further evidence of abuse and of a cover-up. Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, the archbishop of Santiago,
has also been summoned to testify in court about the alleged concealment of years of abuse.