Portuguese commission on Church sexual abuse cases receives plenty of calls on the 1st day

A commission in Portugal will study sexual abuses in the Catholic Church going back up to 70 years ago. It already received plenty of calls on its first day.

Church in Portugal
The Commission for the study of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church collected and validated about 50 testimonies on its first day | Illustration, Lisbon Cathedral © Adrian Sava

The Commission for the study of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church will investigate sexual abuse of minors in Portugal committed by representatives of the Catholic Church from 1950 until today.

It opened its telephone line to collect complaints and was “almost always full” during its first day on January 11.

By the end of the afternoon, staff collected and validated about 50 testimonies, the child psychiatrist and coordinator of the commission Pedro Strecht wrote to the Portuguese news agency Lusa. Testimonies can also be collected on a website, by email or during a face-to-face meeting.

The mission is called “Give a Voice to Silence” and will primarily focus on listening to Church victims and gathering complaints. The creation of the commission follows a decision taken by the Episcopal Conference of Portugal in November 2021.

Similar studies have already been undertaken in the United States, Australia, Ireland, or Germany. The latest report of this kind was published in France in November where thousands of abuses were committed in the last 70 years.

And the publication in France reopened wounds in Portugal according to the Observador.

A commission financed by the Portuguese Catholic Church

The commission will also read historical press coverage, consult child protection organizations, and, most importantly, look into the Church’s archives and scrutinize methods used by the Church to cover up cases.

At a press conference, Pedro Strecht said they received total autonomy to carry out a study on sexual abuse against children and adolescents within the Portuguese Catholic Church. The Church finances the commission. Nevertheless, Pedro Strecht said he would publicly denounce any institutional pressure.

Portuguese Catholic Church is made up of 21 dioceses led by bishops. In 2019, several bishops refused to create a commission on sexual abuse to “deal with an issue that does not exist“.

If the study will focus on crimes of sexual nature under the current Penal Code, it however does not conduct a criminal investigation. All the more so because events might not be considered criminal acts at the time they happened. But it will keep direct communication with the Portuguese national police office to send the complaints.

The commission is expected to publish its report at the end of the year.

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