A priest who served in the chancery of the Archdiocese of Santiago de Chile for 15 years was arrested by local authorities Thursday on accusations of sexual abuse of minors and of the cover-up of abuse.
Fr. Óscar Muñoz Toledo, 56, was arrested July 12 on seven counts of the repeated sexual abuse of minors and statutory rape. He also faces accusations of cover-up.
The abuse is alleged to have begun in 2002, with victims between the ages of 11 and 17 years old. According to Chilean press, five of the seven alleged victims are nephews of Muñoz.
Starting in 2003, Muñoz served as vice-chancellor of Santiago under now-emeritus Archbishop Javier Errazuriz Ossa, who is a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals. Following Errazuriz’ retirement, Muñoz became chancellor, a position he held until earlier this year.
Muñoz reported himself to the archdiocese’s office for abuse complaints Jan. 2. He was subsequently removed as chancellor and as a parish priest at Jesús de Nazareth parish, where he had served since 2016, and was prohibited from the public exercise of his priestly ministry.
A chancellor is responsible for maintaining the documents of a diocese. According to Chilean newspaper La Tercera, Muñoz, as chancellor, was also present during statements made against Chile’s most notorious abuser priest, Fernando Karadima, who was convicted of sexually abusing minors in a 2011 Vatican trial.
According to the Spanish language news agency EFE, the local prosecutor’s office opened an investigation against Muñoz in May.
In June the same office seized evidence from the Diocese of Rancagua and the ecclesiastical court in Santiago to examine claims of abuse by a group of priests in the O’Higgins region of Chile.
They are the latest investigations of clergy of the Church in Chile as it continues to face fallout from sexual abuse scandals.
In June Pope Francis accepted the resignation of five Chilean bishops, including Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, who had been accused of covering up for Karadima.
The resignation of Bishop Alejandro Goić Karmelić, the then-head of the Church in Rancagua, was also accepted June 28. In May, Goić, 78, admitted to dropping the ball on abuse allegations brought to him in 2017. He apologized for having not investigated the charges and suspended 12 priests who were accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with minors.
All the active bishops of Chile had submitted their written resignation to Pope Francis at the end of a three-day meeting with the pontiff in Rome. Francis summoned the bishops following an in-depth investigation and report into the Chilean clerical abuse crisis carried out in February by Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
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