SANTIAGO, Chile (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Chilean prosecutor is saying there will be a major trial for sexually abusive clergy in the nation.
In an interview in Spain over the weekend, Chilean Provincial Prosecutor Emiliano Arias said, "We know that Chilean religious destroyed evidence of sexual abuse."
Speaking with Spanish newspaper El País, Arias said that the target of his investigation is "the culture of cover-up within the Catholic Church that has allowed for these crimes to happen."
He vowed, "We're going to carry out a historic trial and I hope that we're able to establish if, had determined bishops complied with their due diligence, a good portion of the sexual abuses against minors committed by Chilean religious could have been avoided."
Under Arias, the Catholic Church in Chile underwent unexpected police raids in June, trying to find evidence of sex abuse. Raids targetted the offices of the archdiocese of Santiago and the archdiocese of Rancagua. After the raids, Chilean law enforcement was able to arrest Fr. Óscar Muñoz Toledo, who admitted to the Vatican in 2017 that he had sexually abused a minor.
The Chilean prosecutor said that it was Pope Francis who "opened the path to investigate the cover-up of abuses."
He referenced the Holy Father's May 31 letter to the faithful of Chile, saying, "A head of state [the Pope] is telling us to our face that some of his citizens in Chile have a culture of cover-up and abuse."
The Pope was in hot water in January during a trip to Latin America when he defended Bp. Juan Barros, a Chilean prelate accused of protecting a predator priest as a monsignor, and immediate backlash ensued. In the months that followed, the Pope changed his tone radically on Chile's clerical sex abuse scandal. He instructed Church officials to conduct investigations into the sex abuse allegations in Chile and summoned Chile's bishops to the Vatican for an emergency meeting.
In Chile today, there are currently 37 open cases of sex abuse by Catholic clergy.
On Aug. 21, Arias will question Cdl. Ricardo Ezzati of the archdiocese of Santiago about allegations that he covered up sexually abusive clergy — such as Fr. Muñoz, formerly the archdiocese's chancellor.