March 26, 2019
Pope Francis’s pick to replace Chile’s top cardinal – who has been dismissed over allegations of covering up cases of clerical sexual abuse – was on Monday forced to deny that he himself had covered up the crimes of predator priests.
In a case that appears to cast doubt on Francis’ judgement in appointing him to replace Chile’s top prelate Ricardo Ezzati, Spanish bishop Celestino Aos was forced to deny allegations from two sex abuse victims that he covered up for their abuser.
One of the victims, former seminarian Mauricio Pulgar, publicly slammed Aos’ appointment on Monday, saying he had dismissed his complaints in 2012.
“Naming a person who helped cover up sexual assault, I think this is the worst mistake that the pope could make this year,” said Pulgar.
Aos, in an interview on Chile’s Radio Cooperativa, denied “absolutely” any cover-up in the case.
The allegations against Aos date from when he was bishop in Valparaiso, where he acted as the Church’s promoter of justice, a role akin to a prosecutor, investigating abuse cases.
He was accused by the abuse victims of denigrating their claims against a local priest, Jaime Da Fonseca, whom he cleared. Da Fonseca was found guilty in a subsequent investigation by the Vatican and expelled from the priesthood last year.
“The promoter of justice at that time had a well-defined delimitation of responsibilities. I fulfilled them as I thought best, and the promoter of justice does not decide the sentence,” said Aos, who until his sudden elevation by Francis on Saturday, had been bishop of Copiapo in northern Chile.
Pulgar said that Aos had never given any credence to his allegations of abuse.
“During the investigation, he did not consider them likely, and he didn’t inform me of his conclusions. He never gave me the opportunity to present evidence, or witnesses,” Pulgar told Radio Cooperativo.
To date, 77-year-old Ezzati, who was the Catholic Church’s highest official in Chile, has insisted he is innocent. He has promised to cooperate with the investigation into his activities – if the authorities first clear him.
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