Portuguese bishops tackle Church sexual abuse

Portuguese bishops tackle Church sexual abuse

The bishops of Portugal have taken steps to address the issue of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, following a damning investigative report that estimated over 4,000 children have been victims since the 1950s.

The Portuguese Episcopal Conference met in a plenary assembly in Fátima and announced several initiatives, including the creation of all-lay diocesan commissions, a memorial to victims, and a “specific group” to follow the model of the independent commission. The diocesan commissions will be made up of competent laypeople with the possibility of an ecclesiastical assistant.

The bishops also pledged to provide “spiritual, psychological, and psychiatric monitoring” to all victims and have “zero tolerance” towards abusers and those who concealed abuse.

The independent commission provided the bishops with the names of still-active priests accused of abuse. The bishops stressed that allegations must be investigated before action is taken. The bishop of Leiria-Fátima emphasized that the Portuguese Church is not “at the end of a process” but rather “moving from the page of the report to concrete action.”

The Portuguese Church signed a protocol with the Portuguese Association for Victim Support, aiming to provide employees and volunteers with special training in the prevention of victim support to ensure “zero tolerance” for abuse during World Youth Day.

The partnership implements “the best possible practices” to prevent abuse and violence and ensure that “victims are never forgotten,” said Bishop Américo Aguiar, auxiliary bishop of Lisbon and president of the WYD Lisbon 2023 Foundation.

The bishops’ conference expressed gratitude to the victims who gave testimony and acknowledged the pain of those still suffering. A memorial for victims of abuse will be unveiled during World Youth Day, and a request for forgiveness directed at “all victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in Portugal” will be made public in April during the bishops’ next assembly in Fátima.

The bishops urged further investigation, stressing the need for data before action can be taken against accused priests.

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