SANTIAGO – With the resignation of Ricardo Ezzati as archbishop of Santiago, one of the most controversial faces in the ongoing sexual abuse scandal in the Chilean Catholic Church steps down. Nearly every week, details, controversies, scandals and cover-ups came to light under Ezzati. Despite remaining silent over all accusations, Ezzati told reporters that “he leaves with his head held high”.
Hundreds of victims, abused for years by dozens of priests and a handful of bishops. The sexual abuse scandal in Chile that took the country by storm for the last few years has caused various religious leaders to step down and face trial.
But one of the most controversial names in the ongoing scandal, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, remained in his position as archbishop of Santiago. Despite being named in various sexual abuse cases as the one covering up the crimes, despite having to face trial in four different cases and despite the deep crisis his church is in. He went on leading his church. Until last week.
The resignation from Ricardo Ezzati as archbishop of Santiago came as anything but a surprise, as it seemed more a question of when rather than if the 77-year-old archbishop would step down. Upon his resignation, Ezzati told reporters according to Reuters that he leaves with his head held high.
“Every accusation has been responded to, and we will have to wait for what justice says: it is not enough for one to be accused of a cover-up; it has to be proven”.
Still being investigated in four separate sexual abuse cases
Ezzati still keeps his title as cardinal, while at the same time, he is being investigated in four separate sexual abuse cases, committed by members of the Catholic Church. In all these cases he is being charged with covering up the abuse.
One of the most notorious cases is the one of Fernando Karadima, a priest who sexually abused boys in the parish of El Bosque in Providencia, Santiago. When three of his victims stepped forward, it became clear that sexual abuse and coverups have been part of the Chilean Catholic Church for years. Ricardo Ezzati allegedly knew of the abuse, and covered it up by sentencing Karadima to “a life of prayer and penance”.
Another case that shook the country is the one of Oscar Muñoz, who held a high position in the archbishopric of Santiago. Ezzati is being accused of covering up the abuse and rape of at least five children by Muñoz.
The same accusations Ezzati is facing in the case of priest Jorge Laplagne. Although a high ranking aide within the Santiago Archbishopric revealed the sexual abuse committed by Laplagne, the cardinal allegedly decided to ignore and close the investigation that followed.
The most recent case involving alleged coverup is the one of priest Tito Rivera. When the victim of the abuse told Ezzati about how he got drugged and raped in the Cathedral of Santiago, the then archbishop of Santiago allegedly told him “to pray for the priest”, and gave him CLP$30,000 pesos (US$ 44 dollars) for his pain and suffering.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today.