Catholics demand immediate action from the episcopate in cases of abuse | Catholic church

Hundreds of Catholics sent a letter to the Portuguese bishops, asking for short-term measures in the face of cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, including that the bishops “covering” those situations, if any, withdraw from their functions.

The letter, which was sent to the episcopate, was revealed this Thursday by the digital newspaper 7 Marginsalso calls for measures, for now, in relation to “all abusers who are currently at the service of the Church”, such as “preventive suspension whenever there is minimally credible evidence of abuse and, when considered guilty in the light of Christian morality, regardless of any judicial process, they are released from their functions and, in the case of clerics, moving to the lay state”.

The immediate creation of ways to provide support and psychological, psychiatric and spiritual help to victims of sexual abuse that they so wish, the preparation of a solemn and collective moment to ask for forgiveness and the creation of a new independent commission that will continue the work of the previous one, receiving complaints and following up cases, are, according to the 7 Marginssome of the measures proposed by more Catholic institutions and people to the Portuguese bishops.

The subscribers also advocate that the diocesan commissions for the protection of minors refocus their action on primary prevention and training.

The episcopate, which is in retreat in Fátima, is holding an extraordinary plenary assembly on Friday to analyze the report released on February 13 by the Independent Commission for the Study of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Portugal, and the announcement of measures by the Catholic hierarchy is expected.

During the morning of Friday, the Independent Commission, led by child psychiatrist Pedro Strecht, will deliver to the bishops, by dioceses, the nominal list of alleged abusers referenced by the victims. In the afternoon, the commission will deliver to the Attorney General’s Office an identical list, but only of alleged abusers still active, for the knowledge of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

According to the newspaper 7 Marginsmany of the subscribers to the letter sent on Wednesday to the episcopate are the same ones who, in November 2021, addressed the leaders of the Episcopal Conference encouraging them to create an independent national commission to study the problem of child abuse within the Church, namely members of movements such as Graal, We Are Church, Independent Catholic Action of Social Media, Metanoia-Catholic Professionals Movement, Capela do Rato Community (Ecological Focus) or Sinodal Group Nós entre Nós.

In addition to the measures to be taken in the next two months, the letter suggests others to be implemented within six months, such as promoting and encouraging access and study of the independent Commission’s report and its conclusions among pastoral agents, “preventing the denialist temptation or relativization of the criminal phenomenon” or the elaboration of “a manual of good practices that helps pastoral agents to prevent risk situations and to identify signs of cases of abuse, as well as to receive and refer victims”.

The Independent Commission validated 512 of the 564 testimonies received – between January and October 2022 -, pointing, by extrapolation, to a minimum number of victims of around 4815. Twenty-five cases were reported to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which led to the opening of 15 surveys, of which nine have already been archived, six remaining under investigation.

These testimonies refer to cases that occurred in the period between 1950 and 2022, the time span that covered the commission’s work.

The summary of the report, however, reveals that “the data collected in ecclesiastical archives regarding the incidence of sexual abuse must be understood as the “tip of the iceberg”.

On the very day of the presentation of the report, the president of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference (CEP) recognized that the results cannot be ignored and admitted that this was a “dramatic” situation.

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