Suspects of sexual abuse. Bishop of Angra removes two priests and Évora one | Catholic church

The bishops of Évora and Angra do Heroísmo have already removed three priests suspected of sexual abuse and who appear in the list delivered by the Independent Commission.

The Diocese of Angra announced the opening of a preliminary investigation into the two priests identified by the Independent Commission (CI) for the Study of Sexual Abuse of Children in the Catholic Church, cautiously removing them from the ministry.

“The diocesan bishop has already spoken with both and, together, they agreed that the priests in question will be prevented from the public exercise of the ministry until the end of the prior investigation process, which has already been initiated in the Diocese and in accordance with canonical norms. Participation to the Public Ministry will also follow”, says a statement released by the diocesan portal ‘Igreja Açores’.

The prior investigation process, determined by the norms in force, has already started in the diocese and “will follow participation to the Public Ministry”.

The archdiocese of Évora, for its part, cautiously removed a priest from duties and opened an investigation into a complaint of alleged abuse of minors by the priest, in the 1980s, at the Minor Seminary of the city.

In a statement, the Alentejo archdiocese informs that the archbishop, Francisco Senra Coelho, received on Friday, from the Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuse of Children in the Catholic Church in Portugal, two names of diocesan priests allegedly involved in cases of abuse.

“The first one died a few years ago. The process is considered extinct. The second name did not carry any additional information and the investigation carried out in the diocesan archives did not find any previous complaints or inquiries”, reveals the statement, adding that the archbishop “then asked the Independent Commission for any additional data that would allow the investigation to begin”.

“Dated March 7, information was received regarding abuses that had taken place against boys in the 1980s at the Minor Seminary. In view of these data, the Archbishop asked the Diocesan Commission for the Protection and Security of Minors and Vulnerable Persons to initiate the preliminary investigation that will then proceed to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, in Rome”, informs the note.

The same note adds that “all information will also be sent to the Public Ministry”.

“While the investigations are taking place, the prelate from Évora has decided for the precautionary removal of the priest from the office of parish priest and from all pastoral activities that include contact with minors, without prejudice to his presumption of innocence”, he adds.

The Independent Commission validated, at national level, 512 of the 564 testimonies received – between January and October 2022 -, pointing, by extrapolation, to a minimum number of victims of around 4,815. Twenty-five cases were reported to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which led to the opening of 15 inquiries, 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 work of the commission.

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 morning of last Friday, this commission led by child psychiatrist Pedro Strecht, delivered the list of alleged abusers to those responsible for the different dioceses.

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