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A Church in Crisis

The Diocese of Funchal has confirmed that the Independent Commission for the study of Sexual Abuse of Minors in the Catholic Church in Portugal has given the Bishop of Funchal, four names resulting from complaints received by possible victims of sexual abuse within the Church.

In a statement, the diocese states that “although none of those names currently exercise any ecclesiastical office in the diocese (one of them is even unknown), the Diocese of Funchal will not fail in its duties, and seek any canonical and civil procedures if applicable in the respective specific case.”

In conclusion, the Madeiran Church reiterates that the Diocesan Commission for the Protection of Vulnerable Children, Youth, and Adults of the Diocese of Funchal will continue to carry out its work of prevention, reception, and accompaniment, as well as its collaboration with ecclesiastical and civil bodies.

This morning, Bishop Nuno Brás announced that the Catholic Church will not pay compensation to the victims, as the ‘Church is not guilty for the sins of its priests!”

On the sidelines of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Assembly in Funchal, which attracts around 600 worshippers at the Congress Centre of Madeira, the Bishop of Funchal said that he could not understand why the church should compensate victims, and said that he has already provided psychological support to victims of sexual abuse. He went on to state that “it is not part of the ministry of priests to commit sins, and each is responsible for what he has practiced. Therefore, the Church is not guilty of the actions of individual priests.”

However, defence lawyers are exploring several avenues, one of which is blaming the church hierarchy.

The Independent Commission has validated 512 of the 564 testimonies received, pointing out that by extrapolation, that the minimum number of victims is approximately 4,815.

Twenty-five cases have been reported to the public prosecutor’s office, which led to the opening of 15 investigations, nine of which have already been filed, with six remaining under investigation.

These testimonies refer to cases that occurred between 1950 and 2022. The summary of the report, however, reveals that “the data obtained in the ecclesiastical archives regarding the incidence of sexual abuse should be understood as the ‘tip of the iceberg.'”

On the very day of the report’s presentation, the 13th of February, the President of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference (CEP) acknowledged that the results cannot be ignored and admitted to being faced with a “dramatic” situation.

José Ornelas told victims: “from what we have seen and heard we cannot ignore the seriousness of the situation, we are going through a dramatic episode which will not be easy to overcome.”

Samantha Gannon

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