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SANTIAGO, Chile (ChurchMilitant.com) - A former priest accused of rape in the cathedral of Santiago de Chile has committed suicide.
According to Chilean radio station Bío Bío, Tito Rivera Muñoz ended his life on July 19. The ex-priest was accused of raping a man inside the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral in 2015.
The archbishopric of the Chilean capital issued a statement upon the death of the former priest:
The archbishopric of Santiago reports the death of Tito Rivera Muñoz, who was a priest of the Church of Santiago. His death occurred on the night of this Sunday, at 68 years of age. Tito Rivera had presented his priestly dispensation to Pope Francis in 2019, which was accepted in the context of a canonical criminal process for crimes against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue, with adults.
"The archbishop of Santiago has sent the request to dismiss him from priestly ministry to the Holy See, recommending to the Holy Father that it be processed quickly," the archdiocese of Santiago said in 2019.
The story began unfolding publicly in early March 2015 after Radio Bío Bío announced a criminal complaint made by Rivera's alleged victim, Daniel Rojas Alvarez.
Rojas went to the cathedral to get financial help to buy medicine for his daughter, as reported in the complaint.
According to Rojas' testimony, he met Rivera who led him upstairs and down a long corridor to one of the cathedral's bedrooms, where the priest offered him a glass of water.
Soon after, Rojas began to feel sick and found he could no longer control his body. Unable to move, Rojas was then raped by Fr. Rivera.
Rojas claimed afterwards he attempted to report the abuse to the archdiocese, but was turned away each time. Once, he says, he was kicked out and threatened by a priest who worked at the archdiocese's pastoral complaint office.
He also said that in 2016, regarding the matter, he spoke directly to Santiago cardinal Ricardo Ezzati in a confessional in the cathedral.
The cardinal merely "embraced him and told him to pray for Fr. Tito Rivera," according to Rojas.
The complaint documents that Rojas was given 30,000 Chilean pesos ($50) by a priest after meeting with the cardinal.
Speaking with Chilean news program Informe Especial in 2019, Cdl. Ezzati said he sympathized with Rojas' pain, but he denied Rojas' claims.
Cdl. Ezzati faces a lawsuit for the alleged cover-up of homosexual predator Fr. Tito Rivera.
Rivera denied Rojas' accusations, which he said "tarnished my reputation" and were a ploy to get money.
The ex-priest did admit to a Chilean news program Mentiras Verdaderas in 2019, however, that he had engaged in consensual relationships with men and women.
When asked about how he justified these experiences with his priestly vow of chastity, Rivera said that within the Chilean Catholic Church, "there is a favorable environment for those [homosexual] practices."
"From the environment that I know and some [priests] that I do know are homosexual," he said, "I would say perhaps more or less 50%" of Chilean priests are homosexual."
Explaining the prevalence of practicing homosexuals among the clergy, he said that within the local church, "there is a form of physical repression and an emphasis on the religious, so many who repress others or were repressed themselves have latent homosexuality."
The Church in Chile has been racked with clerical sex abuse scandals and cover-ups.
In the early years of his tenure, Pope Francis was personally caught up in it.
It involved the case of Fr. Fernando Karadima, one of Chile's most notorious, homosexual pedophile priests, and the cover-up of his crimes by Fr. Juan Barros Madrid, whom Francis elevated to bishop of the Osorno diocese in 2015.
The Chilean laity expressed outrage for the elevation of Barros, whose cover-up crimes were well-known.
But the pope blasted those who criticized him at the time, calling them "stupid."
As recently as 2018, on a sojourn through Latin America, the pope defended Barros and criticized the sex abuse survivors.
The matter reached a head when the pope had an emergency meeting with all the prelates of Chile in Rome in May 2018.
By the end of the meeting, all the Chilean bishops offered their resignations to the Pope. In June, it was announced that Francis accepted the resignations of Bp. Barros and a few others.
And Rivera's alleged victim, now homeless, said in an interview in 2019 with Informe Especial that he continues to speak publicly about the matter because he wants "truth and justice."
"That's all I want, nothing more. Let the hits keep coming at me, let the prejudices come against me because I have already been prejudged — [for] being in the streets, [by] many people who prefer to continue making kindling out of a fallen tree, [for] spending winter on that bench," Rojas said tearfully.
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