The diocese of Setúbal rejected today that there was a refusal on the part of the diocesan administrator to respond to the Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuses against Children in the Church, attributing the case to the moment of the bishop’s departure.
The report by the Independent Commission led by Pedro Strecht, released on Monday, indicates that two dioceses did not respond to requests for an interview from the bishops or those who replaced them at the time, Setúbal and Beja.
Today, in a statement, the diocese of Setúbal informs that the current diocesan administrator, Father José Lobato, “never received, for an interview, any contact” from the commission.
Citing the report, the diocese reveals that the commission’s first invitation to diocesan officials for a meeting “was launched on February 25, 2022 and the second on March 17 of the same year, dates that coincided, in the diocese of Setúbal, with the move of D. José Ornelas to the diocese of Leiria-Fátima”.
José Ornelas was Bishop of Setúbal until January 28, the date on which he was appointed Bishop of Leiria-Fátima and, “from that moment until his taking office, on March 13, in the diocese to which he had been appointed, temporarily governed the diocese of Setúbal, having received two invitations from the Independent Commission: one as Diocesan Administrator of Setúbal (in February) and the other as Bishop of Leiria-Fátima (in March)”.
Father José Lobato was elected diocesan administrator of Setúbal on March 14″, with this diocese guaranteeing, in the statement, that “speaking with Ana Nunes de Almeida, a member of the Independent Commission, it was concluded that there was certainly a failure of communication in this transition time, stating the sociologist that there was no sign of refusal” by the priest to be interviewed.
“A different situation concerns the Diocesan Archives. In that case, the contacts of the Investigation Group of the Diocesan Ecclesiastical Archives have already been made with Father José Lobato, who received the group of historians in Setúbal, twice, fully opening the archives to that they could carry out their work”, adds the note.
According to the report, 19 cases were reported from the diocese of Setúbal to the commission coordinated by child psychiatrist Pedro Strecht.
The Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuses in the Catholic Church in Portugal began collecting testimonies from victims on January 11, 2022, having validated 512 complaints out of the 564 received, which allowed extrapolation to the existence of a minimum number of 4,815 victims over the past 72 years.
The Portuguese Episcopal Conference will take a position on the report, of almost 500 pages, at a Plenary Assembly scheduled for March 3, in Fátima.