Manuel Clemente removes suspension of priests without “proven facts” | Catholic church

The cardinal-patriarch of Lisbon, Manuel Clemente, this Sunday removed the suspension of alleged priests who abuse minors without having “proven facts, subject to contradiction” and a canonical process carried out by the Holy See. Speaking to RTP, SIC and Rádio Renascença after the Senhor dos Passos procession in Lisbon, Manuel Clemente stressed that Portugal is a “country of law and anyone who is accused has to know what he is accused of”.

“What was given to us by the Independent Commission was a list of names. If that list of names is filled with facts, both we and the civil authorities can act. […] On the part of the Church, we are completely available to seek a solution to this problem, in collaboration, of course, with civil and canonical entities”, said the cardinal-patriarch of Lisbon.

Asked whether the solution to the problem could go through the immediate suspension of the alleged abuser of minors, Manuel Clemente replied: “This is a very serious penalty, it is the most serious that the Holy See can give and it is the Holy See that can give it.” . “If we have facts, and proven facts subject to contradiction, of course – we are in a country of law and laws – it can only be done by the Holy See, it is not something that a bishop can do for himself”, he said.

Asked whether the priests in question cannot be suspended preventively, the cardinal-patriarch of Lisbon again discarded this scenario, saying that “it cannot be because it is subject to contradiction”. “Suspension is, as I said, a very serious penalty, which can only be given by the Holy See after a canonical process. In civil law, all cases are dealt with by the Public Ministry and the Public Ministry acts in accordance with the law and we We are here to collaborate”, he said.

Confronted with the statements of the bishop emeritus of the Armed Forces – who, in an interview with RTP, defended the preventive suspension of alleged priests who abuse minors and considered that the bishops who covered up these cases “are not fit for the place they occupy” –, Manuel Clemente said that “these words belong to the one who uttered them”. “I don’t know if there are such cases. If there are such cases, they have to be treated as such and taking into account one fact: the current legislation is not the legislation of ten years ago, neither civil nor canon. and 30 years ago”, he said.

According to the cardinal-patriarch of Lisbon, “many of the cases in question” are from “50, 60, many years ago”, at a time when “the legislation was none of this, it was not even a public crime, nor was it a crimes against people, were mere indecent assaults that were treated with good words”. “We have to situate this in every moment that happened. Now, everything that has to be done will be done. We are the first ones interested in resolving the matter”, he underlined.

Manuel Clemente assured that the Church will do “everything” it can according to the law. “We cannot invent the law, neither civil nor canonical. Everything that can be done according to the law, will be done according to the law. But don’t ask us for anything else, because we couldn’t be more… Now, you can be sure of this: we are the first ones interested in resolving the matter”, he said.

Asked if he considers that the memorial for victims of sexual abuse, which will be presented during World Youth Day, is enough, Manuel Clemente replied: “The only thing that is enough is never to have things like this again”. “That’s what we want, because just one case is too many. That’s enough and enough,” he said.

The Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuse of Children in the Catholic Church validated 512 of the 564 testimonies received, pointing, by extrapolation, to a minimum number of victims of the order of 4815. Twenty-five cases were reported to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which gave rise to the opening of 15 investigations, of which nine have already been archived, with six remaining under investigation. These testimonies refer to cases that occurred between 1950 and 2022, the period covered by the commission’s work.

Patriarchate of Lisbon promises to act with “zero tolerance”

The auxiliary bishop of Lisbon, Américo Aguiar, promised this Sunday that the Patriarchate of Lisbon will act with “zero tolerance” towards alleged priests who abuse minors, according to the “cry of Pope Francis”, and indicated that measures will be announced this week. “Total transparency and zero tolerance is the cry of Pope Francis and, as far as the Patriarchate of Lisbon is concerned, in the coming days we will act accordingly”, declared Américo Aguiar in statements to RTP and Rádio Renascença during the procession. of Senhor dos Passos, in Lisbon.

Américo Aguiar, who is also coordinator of the Diocesan Commission for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults of the Patriarchate of Lisbon, said that “each person will be placed according to what the legal, civil and canonical framework places them” and underlined that, for the Patriarchate of Lisbon, “the priority is the victims and their suffering”. “The suffering of the victims, accompanying them and each one, for us, has a main and priority place in our actions and, in the coming days, the Patriarchate of Lisbon will share with everyone what it will do”, he underlined, adding that these measures will be announced “during this week”.

The auxiliary bishop of Lisbon also said that he does not know the names on the list of alleged priests abusing minors – delivered on Friday by the Independent Commission to the Portuguese Episcopal Conference -, but guaranteed that it will be communicated to the authorities. “In the next few days, the Diocesan Commission, the Patriarch and the Public Prosecutor’s Office will work together. We are going to deliver that same list, either to the Diocesan Commission or to the Public Prosecutor’s Office”, he said.

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