Chilean officials frustrated with the slow pace of investigations into the country’s sex abuse scandal have demanded the Vatican hand over vital documents
Yesterday, as local prosecutors raided yet another office of the Roman Catholic Church in Santiago, the Chilean government told the Vatican it needed documents related to sex abuse accusations against nine clergy members.
The demand coincided with Tuesday’s release of a grand jury report which revealed that hundreds of Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania have molested more than 1,000 children and senior church officials, including the now archbishop of Washington, D.C., systematically covered up the abuse.
The 800-page Pennsylvania report refers to more than 300 priests in six diocese where children were raped, plied with alcohol, or forced to perform for clergymen to produce pornographic material since the mid-1950s.
Church offices raided as Chile demands Vatican abuse documents.
In Chile, several offices of senior church figures have recently been raided as prosecutors search for evidence of accusations of sexual abuse by clergy not reported to the civilian police, and evidence of cover-ups.
Tuesday’s raid by investigating prosecutors and Chile’s equivalent of the FBI took place at one of the most important buildings of the Chilean church in the capital of Santiago.
They searched the offices of the Episcopal Conference, the Church leadership in Chile, looking for evidence of accusations made about members of the Marist Brothers religious community.
Prosecutor Raul Guzman told reporters yesterday that police had collected documents and computers from the Episcopal Conference and had begun to sift through everything.
Fernando Ramos read letter from Pope concerning Chile abuse crisis.
He told the local media that investigators were collecting information to help identify victims.
After leaving the Episcopal Office headquarters, the investigators went to the offices of the Marist order and also collected information there, according to Alejandro Pena, an attorney for the order.
The investigation is focused on more 38 accusations of abuse committed against former students at schools run by the Marists, who are religious brothers, not priests.
There are 73 people in total under investigation and 104 victims, most of whom were minors at the time of the alleged abuse.
In a statement, seven of the complainants said: ‘We feel profound satisfaction at seeing the advance of investigations needed to do justice.’
They noted that there had been suspicions of attempts to destroy or hide documents – an allusion to a previous raid on a diocese where investigators found church workers trying to destroy documents.
Earlier this month, the Episcopal Conference said it was committed to collaborating with civil authorities on accusations of abuse.
The scandal has rocked the Church in Chile.
Last month, the head of the Chilean Roman Catholic Church’s abuse prevention committee refused to deliver a lengthy report on sex abuse allegations to Chile’s attorney general.
Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez said in mid-July that information in the document could harm those who testified in secret if it became known. He said that ‘the pope is the only recipient of this report’.
Pope Francis received the 2,300-page report earlier this year after ordering the document following a visit to the South American country.
He publicly denounced a ‘culture of abuse and cover-up’ in Chile’s Catholic Church, as the report alleged that senior church officials in the country had failed to act on abuse claims, and in some cases hid them.
When the Pontiff summoned 34 bishops to Rome in June, he accepted resignations from five of them.