The Portuguese Catholic Church has restated its new safeguarding obligations following the findings of an independent commission on sexual abuse by clergy. In contrast, most of its dioceses have observed anomalies in the commission's conclusions.
New Safeguarding Commitments
According to the National Catholic Reporter, the Portuguese bishops' permanent council reaffirmed its gratitude for the work that made it possible to cross-reference information between victim testimonials and data from their archives on March 14. "We value public scrutiny and stand ready to assist society in eradicating the drama of child abuse by providing lasting support to victims and judging perpetrators. Given the subject's intricacy, we apologize that we have not always stated our aims clearly," it said.
The council released the statement after debating comments to a list of suspected abusers presented to the church at the Marian site of Fatima. It was stated that an independent group of trusted persons would be established to collaborate with existing diocesan protection committees. The bishops' conference standards on abuse would be updated, and action taken against identified abusers.
However, according to a church expert, there were issues with the names submitted by the independent panel and their dependence on anonymous testimony. Octávio Carmo, head editor of the Ecclesia information agency of the Portuguese Church, on March 16 stated that some members of the Catholic community believe that unspecified charges should not be acted upon, and it appears that the victims will have to present themselves at some time.
As mentioned, the bishops of Portugal began taking concrete steps to respond to a damning investigative report published a month ago. The Portuguese Episcopal Conference held a plenary assembly in Fátima. They announced the establishment of all-lay diocesan commissions and a memorial to victims unveiled during World Youth Day, which will take place in Lisbon from August 1 to 6. These are just two of the many measures taken, the Catholic News Agency reported.
Establishing a memorial for people who have been abused was yet another project that was announced. Following the conclusion of World Youth Day, the memorial will be relocated to a location away from the main conference building.
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Sexual Abused in Portugal
Northwest Catholic reported that more than 4,800 children were sexually abused by clergy in Portugal between the years 1950 and 2022, according to the concluding report of the Independent Commission for the Investigation of Sexual Abuse of Children in the Catholic Church in Portugal.
In response to the findings, the President of the Portuguese Bishops' Conference, Bishop José Ornelas Carvalho of Leiria-Fatima, apologized to the victims and commended the church-sponsored committee for bringing attention to the abuse committed by Catholic clergy. In addition to this, he guaranteed that any surviving perpetrators would be removed from office.
Another commission member, Alvaro Laborinho Lucio, stated that just 25 cases of pedophilia had been reported to prosecutors up to this point. It was because many cases fell outside Portugal's statute of limitations. Also, he did mention that by the end of February, a list of those still alive offenders would be presented to the legal authorities and the Catholic church.
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