Posted On 2023-03-17 In Abuses

The wind of change has stopped blowing

PORTUGAL, Lena Castro Valente •

At the beginning of 2022, an article of mine appeared on schoenstatt.org about the establishment of an Independent Commission commissioned by the Portuguese Episcopal Conference to investigate the abuse of children by priests, pastoral workers, scouts and others “in the life and work of the Church in Portugal over the last 50 years.” A year has passed and, as promised, the Independent Commission has submitted its report to the Portuguese Episcopal Conference (CEP).

On February 13 of this year, in a press conference, the Independent Commission presented to the PEK the final report on which it had worked for a year. This Commission, as mentioned above, was composed of people who enjoy the highest professional and professional recognition in Portuguese society: Pedro Strecht, doctor of child and adolescent psychiatry, who acted as coordinator; Judge Laborinho Lúcio, former Minister of Justice; Ana Nunes de Almeida, sociologist and researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon; Daniel Sampaio, psychiatrist emeritus full professor of the Faculty of Medicine of Lisbon; Filipa Tavares, social worker and family therapist; Catarina Vasconcelos, filmmaker.

The press conference was very well received by all sectors of Portuguese society (believers and non-believers), as was the reaction of the President of the CEP, Bishop José Ornelas.

“Breaking the silence”

“Breaking the silence”: this was the title of my article, which I wrote full of hope, the same hope that filled the hearts of Portuguese Catholics in particular, believing that we are reversing the side of silence and non-competence and beginning the side of transparency, intellectual honesty and will to follow the lines laid out by Pope Francis to act in these sinister cases.

It is no coincidence that Pope Francis takes up this theme in March and makes it the prayer request in the video of the month.

What wind is blowing in Portugal this March?

On the 3rd of this month, the CEP met in Fatima to discuss the way forward on this Way of the Cross of the Innocents, after analyzing the conclusions of the Independent Commission. After a plenary session, several conclusions were drawn, which were published in a press conference the same day.

Bishop José Ornelas took the floor and it became clear that the wind of change was no longer blowing, but the opposite.

Social outcry

At the moment, this is one of the most discussed and written about topics in Portugal. There is a huge uproar that affects everyone – believers and non-believers – and the Portuguese Church comes off very badly.

Did the CEP really want to set up this commission and make public this litany of outrages against innocent children – the average age of abused children is 11.2 years? Or was it just pretending? Or is she now backing down?

One of the most repulsive points is that a few days ago the CEP received from the Independent Commission a list of 100 names of abusers who are still active. The bishops rejected it because they want the accusers to come forward, saying that it is only a list of names. That statement was promptly denied by Prof. Daniel Sampaio, who said the Portuguese church was in possession of a large amount of information that allowed it to act without delay. Some bishops who have gone public on the matter rule out the preventive suspension of priests.

If you ask some bishops about this issue, you get this response:

  • Bishop Manuel Clemente: Only the Holy See can suspend (which the Auxiliary Bishop of Braga, D. Nuno Almeida, denies).
  • Bishop João Marcos: For the Bishop of Beja, D. João Marcos, priests suspected of sexual abuse who repent and make amends for the acts committed can receive forgiveness from the Church and continue to function. “We are all sinners, we are all limited, we all have faults. This kind of approach is not very Catholic. In the Catholic Church there is forgiveness,” the clergyman said. The same bishop who admitted he had not received the Independent Commission paper, saying he had “forgotten” about it.

“Lord Jesus Christ, Lamb of God, mount again the trunk of the cross” (Heavenward, 32).


Original: Spanish. Translation: Maria Fischer @schoenstatt.org


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