The panel recommended that the statute of limitations for such offenses be extended to at least 30 years from the current age of 23.
By Barry Hatton
LISBON (AP).— More than four thousand 800 people may have been child sexual abuse victims in the Portuguese Catholic Church and 512 alleged victims have already denouncedsaid on Monday a Expert Panel who investigates the historical abuse in the church.
Prominent members of the portuguese church had previously claimed that only a handful of cases.
Senior clerics sat in the front row of the auditorium where panel members read some of the harrowing accounts of alleged abuse included in their final report. There were vivid and shocking descriptions.
The head of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference, Bishop José Ornelas, indicated that church authorities would study the panel’s 500-page report before giving an official response.
“We have seen and heard things that we cannot ignore,” he told reporters. “It is a dramatic set of circumstances. It won’t be easy to get over it.”
The Independent Committee for the Study of Child Abuse in the Catholic Church, formed by the Portuguese bishops a little over a year ago, studied the alleged cases since 1950. The committee presented its final report on Monday, which will be addressed next month by the Portuguese bishops.
Most of the alleged cases have prescribed. The panel reported that only 25 indictments were passed to prosecutors.
The report, seen by some as belated, came four years after Pope Francis gathered church leaders from around the world at the Vatican to address the Church’s sexual abuse crisis.
Pedro Strecht, a psychiatrist who led the committee, estimated that the actual number of victims in that period was at least 4,815 people. This extrapolation was made on other possible victims mentioned by victims who denounced.
The committee did not publish the names of the victims, the identity of the alleged attackers or the places where the abuses were committed.
However, the final report included a confidential annex with all the names of Church members reported to the committee, which would be sent to the Bishops’ Conference and the police.
The report indicated that 77 percent of the attackers were priests, and others were people linked to ecclesiastical institutions. According to the report, 77 percent of the victims did not report the abuse and only four percent went to the police. Most of the abuses occurred when the victims were beginning to be teenagers.
48 percent of those who testified were talking about the abuse for the first time, the text indicated. Most of the alleged victims were male and 47 percent female.
Some places in Portugal – such as seminaries and religious institutions – were “real black spots” for abuse, the report added.