Santiago, Chile, Oct 4, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago has exercised his legal right to silence after being summoned for questioning by a state prosecutor.
The intended questioning was likely to be focused on what the cardinal knew about his former archdiocesan chancellor, Father Oscar Munoz Toledo, who was arrested July 12 following allegations he sexually abused seven minors.
Munoz has already admitted to sexually abusing one minor, but investigators believe the archdiocese may have been aware of as many as four of his victims. Ezzati was called as prosecutors consider his involvement in a potential cover-up of Munoz’s crimes.
Ezzati was scheduled to appear at the prosecutor’s office on Aug. 21, but his defense team requested more time to review the allegations, according to Crux.
He attened a brief meeting with prosecutors Oct. 2, but apparently declined to answer questions.
“At the suggestion of my lawyers and taking into consideration that they requested the definitive dismissal of this case…I will use, for now, my right to remain silent until the competent courts issue a ruling on the request for final dismissal,” the archbishop said in an Oct. 3 statement from the archdiocese.
The cardinal’s lawyer told journalists that Ezzati would seek dismissal of charges he covered up abuse, Reuters reported.
“We are not dodging this,” the attorney told reporters. “For now the cardinal will not make any declaration until we discuss the petition to dismiss (the charges) with the prosecutors’ office…We will discuss everything in public, in court, because we have nothing to hide.”
Chilean police raided several archdiocesan offices after Munoz was linked to a suspected network of 14 abuser-priests in the neighboring Diocese of Rancagua, approximately 40 miles south of Santiago.
During one of the searches, authorities discovered a 2013 letter from a former bishop of Rancagua to Ezzati criticizing the cardinal for his response to victims of Fr. Fernando Karadima. Karadima was a serial abuser of minors whose relationship with Bishop Juan Barros triggered a scandal that has engulfed the Chilean Church for months.
Ezzati denies covering up abuse. He submitted his resignation to the pope in May, together with the rest of the Chilean episcopate, though it has not been accepted.
The cardinal’s decision to refrain from answering questions has drawn criticism from some, including Chilean abuse survivor and activist Juan Carlos Cruz, who wrote that the archbishop’s decision showed a “lack of respect” to victims.
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