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These priests have taken part in actions that may be civilian crimes as well as within the church," the bishop's office in the city of Rancagua said. Nicknamed "the Family", the group of priestly offenders commited sex abuses with young people including minors, churchgoer Elisa Fernandez told Channel 13 last week. A priest said in that report aired last week that the group formed a sex abuse ring a decade ago, and engaged in sex acts with no regard for whether their victims were minors or of age.
In addition, offenders used social media to control their interactions with victims and used church money for trips abroad as well as expensive car services with young friends, the report added.
Several members of the Chilean church hierarchy are accused by victims of ignoring and covering up child abuse by Chilean paedophile priest Fernando Karadima during the s and s. On Thursday evening, Francis promised "changes" to the Chilean church to "restore justice" in a short declaration to the bishops, which was made public.
But in a confidential page document leaked Friday by Chilean TV channel T13, the Argentine pope goes much further in his indictment of the Chilean Church. The letter - handed to the bishops at the start of their meetings with Francis - evokes "crimes" and "painful and shameful sexual abuse of minors, abuses of power and conscience by ministers of the Church. Some analysts note that Chile's long tradition of having the church not subject to civilian law lent itself to impunity and cover-ups.
The damning letter also outlines findings of an investigation, ordered by Pope Francis, into the abuse allegations. It says the probe found senior church officials had destroyed proof in cases of sex abuse and that certain members of the clergy who had displayed immoral behaviour had been transferred to other dioceses after attempts to "minimize" the gravity of their actions.