SANTIAGO – The number of sexual abuse cases, involving Chilean church officials, has tripled since July with 119 open investigations underway in the Prosecutor’s Office.
The Sexual Crimes Unit of the country’s Prosecutor’s Office has announced that the cases have increased from 37 in July to 119 by the end of August, showing a triple rise in only one month, reports the Chilean newspaper La Tercera.
The cases involve all ranges of Chile’s Catholic church officials which amount to 167 imputed priests, deacons, seculars and bishops. At the same time, the numbers of victims have gone up to 178, including 79 children and adolescents.
The figures show a sharp rise in the light of new church sexual abuse scandals in the South American country. On Thursday, priest José Carraro Bacchin, head of the central Talca parish has been removed from his position after revelations into his alleged abuse of an underage girl from 1992 to 93.
Also, Santiago Cardinal, Ricardo Ezzati, has opened an investigation into alleged sexual abuses of one of the capital’s priests, Diego Ossa Errázuriz, who is accused of committing two sexual crimes before 2005. Ossa is considered one of the disciples of Fernando Karadima, the infamous priest who was removed from any church office in 2010 following revelations into a series of abuses.
“There’s been a rise in the cases due to more complaints by the victims. Also, this is because we have been able to know more reports, compiled in dioceses, that have been investigated”, says the head of Sexual Crimes Unit of the Prosecutor’s Office, Luis Torres, cited by the Chilean media.
The Prosecutor’s Office has recently searched several new Catholic churches in the capital Metropolitan area, O’Higgins and the central Araucania region.
“We may come to the conclusion that there’ve been intentions that these cases never be investigated,” Torres has warned.
Chile has been rocked by numerous reports of Catholic church officials involved in sexual abuses and attempts to hide the cases.
All 34 Chilean bishops stepped down from their positions in May following three days of intense meetings with Pope Francis in the Vatican City. The resignations took place after revelations that bishop Juan Barros had tried to conceal priest Karadima’s abuses for years.