Skip to main content

Chilean police have arrested a former Roman Catholic Church official after he confessed earlier this year to sexually abusing at least five children, a state prosecutor said on Thursday. The arrest was the first since authorities launched a major investigation this year into cases of abuse within Chile’s Catholic Church, which Vatican officials accused in February of “grave negligence” and a cover-up in its handling of sex abuse allegations.

Oscar Muñoz, who served as chancellor of the archdiocese of Santiago, confessed in January to church authorities that he sexually abused at least five children, according to Prosecutor Emiliano Arias, who ordered his arrest in the capital on Thursday.

Ironically, Arias told reporters that Muñoz had been responsible for receiving allegations of abuse within the church.

Story continues below advertisement

“The crimes he is accused of are of repeated sexual abuse and one case of a consenting relationship with an older minor,” Arias said, speaking outside Santiago’s cathedral.

“There are more than five victims. I hope this investigation will allow me to find more victims because they deserve proper treatment.”

In many of the alleged abuse cases within Chile’s Catholic Church, criminal suspects have eluded prosecution because of a statute of limitations. Arias said that would not be the case with Muñoz.

The prosecutor conducted raids on church offices and seized documents in Santiago and the southern city of Rancagua last month as part of his investigation.

Police confirmed that they had seized further evidence from the Santiago archbishop’s offices and the church’s ecclesiastical tribunal on Thursday.

The archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, told reporters following Muñoz’s arrest that he felt “great pain, for him, for his family and for the victims.”

“The Santiago Archbisopric reiterates its willingness to collaborate with the authorities in any way required,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

Muñoz will appear in court on Friday in Rancagua, 50 miles (80 km) south of Santiago. He could not be reached for comment and it was not immediately clear if he had hired a lawyer to represent him.

His alleged confession came at around the same time Pope Francis visited the South American country in January, when a substantial number of abuse cases were brought into the open amid protests over his appointment of a bishop accused of aiding in the cover-up of sexual misconduct.

In May, the pope summoned Chile’s 34 bishops to Rome, where they collectively offered their resignation over the sex abuse scandal. Since then, the pontiff has accepted the resignations of five bishops and church insiders have said he will be considering more in the coming weeks.

Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

If your comment doesn't appear immediately it has been sent to a member of our moderation team for review

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.