ROME – An investigation of the Archbishop of Santiago over charges that he failed to respond appropriately when he found out about allegations of sexual abuse against clergy in his archdiocese will continue, a Chilean court ruled on Wednesday.
The judge rejected a request by the lawyer of Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati to dismiss the case, arguing that he had no “powerful reason” to end the investigation against the cardinal.
On the contrary, the judge said, he considers there is “an action that needs to be investigated.”
Ezzati’s lawyer, Hugo Rivera, had argued the investigation has no purpose but to “harm” the cardinal, since the crimes he is accused of covering up can’t be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations.
Prosecutor Emiliano Arias was present in the court, and listed a series of crimes that have been pinned on the cardinal, defining them as “atrocious.”
The prelate is being investigated for his role in various cases, including that of the former chancellor of the archdiocese of Santiago, who’s currently under house arrest after being accused of sexually abusing several of his nephews.
According to Arias, Ezzati is also being investigated over his role in several cases that have yet to be made public, including a case of rape that reportedly happened in the metropolitan cathedral during his time as head of the archdiocese.
“There are serious and gross breaches by Mr. Ezzati,” Arias told the court.
According to Bio Bio, after the hearing Arias acknowledged that there is not yet enough evidence to formally charge Ezzati, but the cardinal’s request not to be investigated is “unpresentable.”
Ezzati, now 77, first presented his resignation to Pope Francis when he turned 75. He did so again last May, together with every other Chilean bishop, after being summoned to Rome by the pontiff, who accused them of covering up and destroying evidence about cases of clerical abuse of children.
Clerical abuse survivors in Chile celebrated the court’s decision, noting Ezzati has long been viewed as a protege of Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz, his predecessor and a former member of the pope’s council of cardinal advisors.
Juan Carlos Cruz, one of the survivors of former priest Fernando Karadima, said that he was “very happy” with the decision not to dismiss the investigation against Ezzati because “he’s a delinquent who has his hands not only in one case, but in several. I hope that one of them [Chilean bishops] soon ends in jail.”
It was announced at the end of last year that Errazuriz would no longer be a part of the C9. Cardinal George Pell, who is facing historic allegations of abuse in his homeland of Australia, was also removed from the advisory body.
Ezzati will appeal the court’s decision, which means that he’s still not going to give testimony about the allegations. He was originally scheduled to do so last October, but through different legal strategies, has managed to avoid being interviewed.
In addition to the investigation by the prosecutor’s office, Ezzati is currently facing the possibility of being stripped of his Chilean nationality. He was born in Italy and Congress declared him a Chilean citizen in 2006 as a sign of appreciation for the good he had done for the country.