AP: Police raided the Chilean Episcopal Conference on Tuesday in a case over alleged rapes and sexual abuse committed by members of the Marist Congregation, prosecutor Raúl Guzmán said.
Guzmán and investigative police personnel arrived with a court order at the headquarters located in the heart of the Chilean capital.
The prosecutor investigates more than 50 complaints from people who claim that while they were studying in Marist schools and were minors they were repeatedly abused.
“We are collecting and complementing the information that we have already received for the identification of victims who have made complaints about abuses of different types, particularly of a sexual nature,” Prosecutor Guzmán told the press.
After the raid Guzmán and the police moved to the headquarters of the Marists, where several of the religious accused, and from there also withdrew information, informed the defender of the religious Alejandro Peña.
Dependencies of the Church have faced a series of raids prosecutors in Santiago and the south of the country seeking information related to the cover-up of sexual abuse and in the case of Tuesday seeks to complete or identify abused pupils.
After a raid on the Ecclesiastical Court in the archdiocese of Santiago a few weeks ago, the prosecutor Emiliano Arias seized material that served to quote a court to Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati as an alleged abuser of sexual abuse, unprecedented in the history of the local Church and of the prosecutor’s offices.
The Marists are not priests, so they invited priests to their schools to officiate mass and take confessions.
The case of the alleged abuses committed by the Marists broke out in August last year when the congregation denounced one of their religious, Abel Pérez, who seven years earlier had confessed to his authorities that he had abused and raped 14 minors between 1970 and 2008.
The Chilean Catholic Church has been in the eye of the storm since the beginning of the year when Pope Francis’ visit to Chile gathered few parishioners after the pontiff fiercely defended Bishop Juan Barros, accused of covering up sexual abuse, and qualified his accusers of liars.
There were so many criticisms he received that he sent a couple of emissaries to investigate the situation and they concluded, in the words of the Pope, that the Chilean Church had lived for decades in “a culture of abuse and cover-up”.
After Francisco’s criticism, all the Chilean bishops resigned in mid-May, although only five resignations have been accepted so far. Some priests and religious specialists believe that the pontiff has no candidates to replace all the bishops he would like.
The latest report from the National Prosecutor’s Office indicated that it investigates 38 cases involving 73 people – diocesan priests, of various orders and lay people – in the alleged abuse of 104 people, most of them minors at the time of the events.