Still digesting the bitterness caused by the revelation that at least 4815 children were victims of sexual abuse at the hands of members of the Catholic Church in Portugal in the last 72 years, a group of Catholics decided to promote a prayer vigil, on the 22nd, Ash Wednesday, in front of the Jerónimos Monastery, in Lisbon, between 21:00 and 22:00.
“Underlining the emergency and the demand with which we expect the responses of the structures and leaders of the Church in Portugal” is one of the objectives of the initiative, open to all “Portuguese Catholics, lay people, religious and ordained ministers” and which is intended to be replicated in different cities. Before March 3, however, pronouncements are not expected from the president of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference (CEP), José Ornelas, on the response of the Portuguese Church to the scourge denounced in the report presented last Monday.
On that day, the Portuguese bishops will meet in Fatima in an extraordinary plenary assembly exclusively dedicated to sexual abuse within the Church and it will then be possible to “point out concrete measures to be developed”, as promised by Bishop José Ornelas, in the communiqué issued on Monday. fair.
By that time, the representative of the bishops in Portugal should already have a list with more than 100 names of members of the Church, priests included, who are active, despite having been pointed out as abusers by the victims heard by the members of the commission coordinated by child psychiatrist Pedro Strecht, given that Ornelas has already clarified that, from now on, there will be no place for abusers within the institution.
The creation or not of a new independent commission capable of giving continuity to the report constructed from 512 testimonies (and which constitutes only the “tip of the iceberg” of the violence instituted within the Church for decades, according to its authors) is one of the doubts on the table. The need to ensure supervision of the Church by members outside it seems to be already emphasized by the fact that the diocesan commissions created to receive this type of denunciation have received, since their creation in 2019 until now, only 32 cases, according to the most recent assessment made to Rádio Renascença by the national coordinator of the commissions, the former Attorney General of the Republic Souto Moura.
More than 2.5 million euros in compensation
Added to the shock of the Church in Portugal is that of the Spanish Church, where dioceses and religious congregations have been accused of withholding information requested by the Public Prosecutor’s Office on sexual abuse of children. Of the 70 bishops questioned, only 29 responded. In reaction to the ear-pulling, the Spanish Episcopal Conference claimed, in a statement issued last night, that the collaboration provided is “within the limits that the law allows”.
Out of tune with most of the Spanish dioceses, the archdiocese of Madrid announced on Wednesday that its victim assistance office received 34 complaints against members of the Church, of which 23 related to sexual abuse suffered when they were minors. According to the statement by Cardinal Carlos Osoro, last year the office added 14 complaints of abuse of authority within the Church and provided psychological assistance to 19 relatives of victims and five abusers, three of whom are clerics.
The German diocese of Essen has disclosed that there have been more than 400 cases of sexual abuse of minors from 1958 until last year. In total, 129 clerics and 19 religious were accused, out of a universe of 201 people accused of at least one crime, with 33 being convicted criminally or in canonical proceedings.
That diocese also clarified that 163 victims had asked for financial compensation for the damage suffered, which meant that the diocese had to disburse 2.58 million euros so far in helping those affected by the scourge. There, as in Portugal, it was more common for clergy accused of having sexually abused children to be transferred to other parishes or functions, consequently continuing to have “contacts with children and young people”, as read in the respective report.