When the Family of the Chilean President Gets Touched

SANTIAGO – Chile has seen some of the most severe sexual abuse committed by members of the Catholic Church. The stance of the government has changed in recent years: nothing gets hidden, everyone gets investigated. But when the uncle of the president is being investigated, authorities returned to old, bad habits.

Last week, the Vatican announced it had its special investigator in Chile looking into accusations of sexual abuse of a minor committed by Bernardino Piñera, retired Archbishop and uncle of President Sebastián Piñera.

Sexual abuse by high-ranking members of the Catholic Church has made headlines in Chile for years and authorities have taken a clear position on these cases: investigate and prosecute. Even national heroes such as Renato Poblete and Padre Hurtado were or are investigated and, in some cases, even stripped of important titles.

But when news of the investigation of the president’s uncle emerged, the government publicly expressed doubts about the case.

In the city of Temuco, coincidentally the same city where Bernardino Piñera served as bishop, President Piñera said he doubted the allegations contain any substance. “Having known my uncle for almost 70 years, I find the accusations hard to believe because I know his behavior throughout a lifetime. It is hard for me to believe accusations about events that happened more than 50 years, against a man who is 103 years old today,” the president said.

Other ministers of the Piñera administration also stepped forward to express their doubts. Most outspoken was Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick, nephew of president Piñera and direct family to Bernardino Piñera. He claimed he could find himself completely in the words of the president.

Nevertheless, for Bernardino Piñera, it is not the first time he is being accused of playing a role in a case of sexual abuse. Survivors of abuse committed by former Archbishop Francisco Cox, the successor of Piñera, accuse the president’s uncle to cover for Cox.

Bernardino Piñera served as Archbishop of La Serena from 1983-1990 after serving as Bishop of Temuco. Being 103 years old, he is the oldest living bishop in the world.

More on the widespread sexual abuse scandal in Chile:

President Piñera to visit Pope Francis this month

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