Chilean bishops, prosecutors to cooperate in abuse investigations

Santiago, Chile, May 1, 2019 / 10:35 am (CNA).- The Chilean bishops’ conference signed a collaboration agreement with public prosecutors Tuesday to streamline the investigation of clerical sexual abuse.

The April 30 agreement is meant “to facilitate the exchange of information concerning past, present, and future investigations of delicts of a sexual nature commited by diocesan clerics against children, adolescents, or persons with disabilities.”

The agreement protects the “confidentiality requested by those who have gone to the Episcopal Conference of Chile” as victims or witnesses.

The bishops have consented to deliver evidence of abuse-related crimes to prosecutors within 24 hours of receiving an accusation.

Auxiliary Bishop Luis Fernando Ramos Perez of Santiago, secretary general of the bishops’ conference, said the agreement is an “expression of reciprocity, of trust between institutions united by the same cause. It is a step that challenges us in the work of offering ever greater guarantees to the victims.”

He added: “When it comes to seeking truth and justice in delicts of sexual abuse of minors, the Public Ministry and the Catholic Church are not adversaries but collaborators, because we are animated by the same goal.”

Bishop Ramos called it “a very novel agreement” on the world stage, urging that “the authorities of the Holy See look at it with attention, because it can serve to illumine” other situations.

Chilean prosecutors are investigating 166 cases of clerical sex abuse or cover-up, involving 221 suspects and 248 victims, according to Reuters.

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