have been raiding the offices of the Catholic Church since June,
seizing laptops and files belonging to Church officials and the
Vatican, after prosecutors became frustrated with the Catholic
Church’s ongoing protection of pedophile priests.
to Pope Francis and the Vatican, the Catholic Church is under no
obligation to divulge information about pedophile priests, claiming
that details of sexual crimes committed by Catholic officials are
protected under canon law as ‘Pontifical
according to a report byReuters,
beginning since mid-June, there have been six raids on the offices
belonging to the Catholic Church. Authorities have reportedly seized
documents, files, computers, laptops and tablets belonging to Church
officials and the Vatican.
raids are a part of ongoing investigations into allegations of rampant
child sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests all over the world. The
raids have been staged as surprise sweeps, and are being regarded as the
most aggressive ever undertaken by a judicial authority against the
Roman Catholic Church.
special envoys sent by Pope Francis to investigate a child sex abuse
scandal in Chile were meeting priests and Church workers at a university
in the Chilean capital last month when aides rushed into the room with
an alarming development:police
and prosecutors were about to start raiding Church offices.
envoys were 90 minutes into a seminar on how to investigate allegations
of sex abuse committed by fellow clergy following revelations that
hundreds of children might have been molested. For decades, the Roman
Catholic Church in Chile quietly investigated such allegations without
alerting police, but it now stands accused, even by Pope Francis
himself, of a cover-up that allowed abusers to operate with impunity.
of the clergymen listening to the envoys was Jaime Ortiz de Lazcano, the
legal adviser to Santiago’s archbishop. The aides rushed to his side and
told him, “‘Father, go to the (Church offices) because there’s going to
be a raid’,” Ortiz later recounted.
and prosecutors were staging simultaneous raids on Church offices less
than a mile away from the university and outside the capital, looking
for evidence of sex crimes the Church had not reported to police.
surprise sweeps, ordered by Emiliano Arias, a provincial prosecutor,
marked the start of what experts who track sex crimes in the Roman
Catholic Church say is one of the most aggressive investigations ever
undertaken by a judicial authority anywhere in the world.
that cold June afternoon there have been five more raids on Church
offices to seize documents, phones, tablets and computers, leaving the
Vatican scrambling to respond to a rapidly unfolding scandal that is the
worst image crisis of Francis’ papacy, now in its sixth year.
the charge against the Church is Arias, 45, who is experienced in
fighting organized crime and has a showman’s fondness for taking
television news crews on the raids.
told Reuters in an exclusive interview that documents seized by his team
contained 30 cases of alleged abuse dating back to 2007 that the Church
had not reported to the police. While Reuters was allowed to film his
investigators poring through seized documents, he declined to give
details from the files because he said they named victims of abuse.
also alleged that some local Church officials had tried to destroy
documents but that his team – made up of two prosecutors, three lawyers
and a unit of specialist sex crime police – had salvaged them. He
declined to say who had tried to destroy them or how they had tried to
get rid of them.
says he wants to arrest both those who perpetrated the abuse and those
who he says helped to cover it up. He arrested Oscar Munoz, a top aide
to Santiago’s archbishop, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, after seizing church
documents in which Munoz confessed to sex crimes. Munoz’s lawyer has
acknowledged that some of the accusations in the documents are true but
says he will challenge some others.
last week named Ezzati, the most senior Roman Catholic in Chile, as a
suspect, accusing him of covering up his aide’s alleged abuses. Ezzati
has denied any wrongdoing and promised to cooperate.
said he launched the raids after Church officials in Rancagua, the
capital of O’Higgins region, told him he would have to make a formal
petition to the Vatican to obtain information he was seeking because it
was protected by ‘pontifical secret.’
Roman Catholic Church says the ‘pontifical secret’ provision in canon
law is intended to protect the privacy of all involved in sex abuse
claims. Critics say bishops have historically used it as a shield to
block inquiries from civil authorities.
are not talking about a fraud, or a theft, we are talking about crimes
against children,” Arias said in an interview in his office in Rancagua,
explaining his decision not to submit the request to the Vatican and
instead get a judge to approve the raids.