The Archbishop of Santiago, Ricardo Ezzati, came to the District Attorney’s office in O’Higgins, Santiago on Wednesday to give a statement to the judge in relation to his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, but he exercised his right to maintain silence instead of giving a statement.
Ezzati stands accused of covering up numerous sexual abuse cases that took place within the Catholic Church, with many members of the clergy allegedly sexual abusing minors. This is the Church’s biggest scandal in recent times, currently involving 119 ongoing cases with 178 registered victims, reported TeleSur.
On Wednesday, Oct 3, Ezzati was called in front of the judge in relation to his alleged cover-up of the acts of the Catholic Church’s ex-Chancellor Óscar Muñoz, who is being investigated for rape, statutory rape and sexual abuse.
His lawyer Hugo Riveras, however, maintains that his client is completely innocent.
“We haven’t dodged anything and for now the Cardinal is not going to give a statement,” he told press. He added that there was a hearing planned for this Friday where they would study the possible dismissal of charges against him.
Ezzati’s decision to stay silent was not received positively, and Lawyer Emiliano Arias told TeleSur that all members of defense who want to collaborate should want to speak and explain their arguments.
“We want to talk with transparency, about everything, so that society knows the entirety of the evidence for and against him, presented to a public audience. Until now couldn’t have that.”
Last July Ezzati said that he felt a “profound pain” over what had happened and claimed he wanted to “collaborate with the law in any way possible.”
Some of the Archbishop’s victims came forward on social media and interviews to express their feelings after Ezzati’s silence was reported. Juan Carlos Cruz told Radio Cooperativa that the situation was “disgraceful and [Ezzati] showed a lack of respect.”
“He has a right to do it, but it’s another insult to the victims and to the state,” he said, adding that “It is an insult to all human ethics and he shows the same lack of empathy towards victims as he always has […] He never wanted to collaborate with the law, the only thing he has done is damage people’s lives.”
On Twitter, James Hamilton and José Andrés Murillo also repudiated the Archbishop’s actions, calling him a “coward” and a “real criminal.”
Como buen criminal, Ezzati en lugar de cooperar con la justicia, se acogió a su derecho a guardar silencio. Un derecho, sí, pero de encubrimiento
— José Andrés Murillo (@JosAndrsMurillo) 3 de octubre de 2018
Like a real criminal, instead of cooperating with the authorities, Ezzati used his right to stay silent. A right, yes, but one of covering-up. José Andrés Murillo
Ezzati se ríe de Chile y su estado de derecho , país que lo acogió y le dió la ciudadanía , lo mínimo es colaborar con la justicia. Cuanto más debemos tolerar ?
— James Hamilton (@YverYactuar) 3 de octubre de 2018
Ezzati is laughing at Chile and its state of law, the country that welcomed him and gave him citizenship. The least he could do is collaborate with the law. How much more do we have to tolerate? James Hamilton.
Ezzati is Italian by birth and there have been petitions to strip him of his Chilean nationality after the scandal broke.
The sexual abuse scandals have rocked the Catholic Church after a swathe of testimonies from survivors flooded out from May this year. Although the Pope has accepted the resignation of various bishops, so far no member of the Church has been formally sentenced for the crime, as many of them occurred decades ago.
The Pope has organised a meeting with Chilean President Sebastián Piñera in order to discuss the impact these crimes have had on Chile and the Catholic community. It will take place in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican City on October 13.