The Chilean branch of the Jesuit order Tuesday released the findings of an investigation into Father Renato Poblete's alleged involvement in sexual misconduct. According to this enquiry, Poblete carried out improper acts repeatedly, seriously and systematically.
The team headed by chief investigator Waldo Bown, a lay lawyer, determined that at least 22 women, including four minors, have gone through sexual abuse, and added that Poblete maintained six stable relationships for some time.
This investigation began after the complaint of Mrs. Marcela Aranda and subsequently received the testimony of 21 more women who suffered some experience of sexual abuse by Renato Poblete, events that occurred between 1960 and 2008, explained
Cristián del Campo, the Jesuits' provincial (chief) in Chile.
He added that among the victims there are four people who were under 18 when the reported events occurred.
Del Campo also explained that ”sixteen (cases) refer to sexual abuse of women of legal age, consisting of an unexpected and violent sexual approach, in which the perpetrator tries to kiss and touch the victim.
He stated that between 1960 and 2008, Renato Poblete maintained six stable relationships in a period of time and five of them are believed to have featured abusive behaviour.
The Jesuits also confirmed all accounts in the Aranda case are plausible and that the sexual abuse has been corroborated with other evidence. Poblete's participation in at least one of the abortions reported could also be confirmed, investigators admitted.
Del Campo added that regarding the complaint of group violations, the investigation did not know of other cases of abuse or rape of a group nature or found any background that could corroborate them.
The prelate also explained that given the seriousness of this complaint, the testimony of Mrs. Marcela Aranda has been considered plausible and credible in its entirety and the fact that in her statement she points out that these facts could consider other people, living people, we will submit this background at the earliest to the Public Ministry (Prosecution), he said.
The enquiry also proved that Poblete acted under the protection granted by his status as a priest, the money he handled personally and the prestige that his apostolic work gave him during his years as a priest, which allowed him to lead a double life.
As Del Campo pointed out, the behaviours of abuse of power ... and other crimes were sustained in a kind of double life protected in the public image of a person of good.
The Jesuits' chief dded that the testimonies of the victims collected in the investigation process account for the dynamics established by Renato Poblete Barth, a dynamic of violence, abuse of power and emotional [manipulation] to the victims and their families, since the perverted Poblete focused on people with economic or emotional vulnerability.
Poblete's victims are still suffering. We are aware of this serious damage [caused] and that is why, as some victims have requested, we will honour our commitment to confidentiality with them. In our country, the courts are called to administer justice and establish responsibilities, Del Campo stressed.
The Bown investigation did not prove the existence of a cover-up, Del Campo went on. Some Jesuits received some information, rumours or comments from third parties, which would imply an ethical responsibility in their actions,” concluded the provincial.
These new findings are part of a saga that sparked following Pope Francis' visit to the country in January 2018, during which he downplayed allegations of sexual abuse against a number of priests as slander, citing a lack of evidence that eventually surfaced, forcing him to recant his statements.
The Buenos Aires-born Francis, a Jesuit himself, is said to have been involved in cover-ups of pedophile priests while he was still Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergiglio, archbishop of Argentina.
Father Renato Poblete died in February 2010.