Abuse victims outraged by Episcopal “inaction”

Almost nine months after the presentation of the Independent Commission's report on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in Portugal, there are victims who say they are “outraged” by the institution's inaction. They therefore sent an “Open Letter to the Portuguese Bishops”, in which they say they continue to wait for “a humble and sincere request for forgiveness” and ask for “reparations and economic compensation”.

“Very few actions have been developed and concrete attitudes taken” regarding sexual abuse in the Church since the presentation of that report, can be read in the letter, written by Coração Silenciado –Silenced Heart, the Association of victims of abuse in the Church in Portugal, and to which 7MARGENS had access.

“From you, we expect a humble and sincere request for forgiveness. Not those published on the websites of your dioceses under pressure from the Social Communication in light of the Independent Commission's report, but rather those who have the capacity to show sincere repentance wrapped in concrete actions”, the victims say to the Portuguese bishops.

And they ask: “How many of you have already met, in the style of Pope Francis, with the victims of your dioceses? How many of you have already contacted our Association? (…) How many of you have met with our families and asked them for forgiveness?” In the text, Coração Silenciado also states that “the CEP to date has not formalized any invitation for dialogue, to find out what the victims feel, what they need, what they expect from the Church in Portugal”.

But “even if the apologies may multiply”, the victims will have no way of knowing whether they are sincere “or just strategies to hush up the matter”, the letter points out. And that is why the victims' association defends that “reparation” also involves “economic compensation”, which it considers to be “a public acknowledgment that each victim is recognized as such”, and “the materialization of the truth that has not yet been assumed by the Portuguese Church ”. In other words: “Each compensation will have the meaning: I recognize you as a victim, I did not lead in a way to protect you, the sin committed against you also falls on me because I was complicit”, explains the letter.

Plenary assembly of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference, last year, in Fátima: “sadness, displeasure and indignation”, says the Association about the bishops. 

The open letter, sent last week without any response having been obtained so far, also refers to the Vita Group, to argue that the bishops' commitment “to eradicate this crime” cannot involve “solely” the creation of the Group.

“And by the way, placing victims and abusers with the same Group makes all victims uncomfortable and is an attitude of revictimization”, writes the Coração Silenciado association, taking the opportunity to ask: “can they clarify whether they will work with everyone who is reported or just with those who are condemned?”

Recalling that, according to the information it has, the priests “who were removed after the report was released were reintegrated shortly after”, with the exception of those from the diocese of Braga, the association recognizes that this is “at various levels”, the “diocese that is having a more dignified procedure towards victims”.

The group therefore expresses “sadness, displeasure and indignation” at the way in which most Portuguese bishops “have dealt with the issue of sexual abuse”, citing several times the recent document from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in the Church  and ending with one of the conclusions referred to in the Letter of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to the People of God: “Above all, the Church of our time has the duty to listen, in a spirit of conversion, to those who have been victims of abuse committed by members of the ecclesiastical body and to make a concrete and structural commitment to ensure that this does not happen again.”



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