Churches in different countries have decided differently in the face of child abuse - Plataforma Media

Churches in different countries have decided differently in the face of child abuse

The Portuguese bishops announced on Friday what the Church will do after analyzing the report on sexual abuse of children released two weeks ago. Faced with the same issue, different countries have taken different decisions.

The Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuse of Children in the Catholic Church released a report on the work it carried out for a year on the 13th, indicating that it received 512 validated testimonies, which allowed the extrapolation of at least 4,815 victims.

The president of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference (CEP), José Ornelas, has already apologized to the victims, but many expect the Church to do more.

Ireland, France, the United States, Germany, Chile and Australia are among the countries in which sexual abuse in the Church has been investigated and in some, in addition to apologies, the Church has compensated the victims.

Common across the world is the Church’s initial downplaying of complaints and its cover-up of abusers, sometimes for many years.

Here’s what happened internationally:


The Pope has insisted on a policy of “zero tolerance” for cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.


The Spanish Catholic Church recognized for the first time in April 2021 a total of 220 cases of sexual violence against children registered in 20 years and which it reported to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a Vatican institution.

On March 11, 2022, it disclosed the existence of 506 cases of sexual abuse against minors, which the Spanish Episcopal Conference promised to clarify.
Last year, the Spanish parliament announced the creation of a commission, chaired by the Ombudsman, to investigate, for the first time officially, the alleged abuse of minors by the Church.

In the absence of official data, the newspaper El País launched its own survey in 2018, listing 1,741 victims by the beginning of this year.


More than 300,000 minors were abused and assaulted in institutions of the French Catholic Church, 216,000 of them by clergy and religious, between 1950 and 2020, according to a report by the Independent Commission on Church Abuses in France.

The commission worked for two and a half years and identified in the report, released in October 2021, about 3,000 abusers – two thirds of whom were priests – who worked in the French church during the 70 years analyzed.

The 22 alleged crimes that had not yet prescribed were referred to the judicial authorities.

The Church announced financial support for victims of sexual abuse against minors committed by members of the clergy since 1950 and the French bishops said they would sell assets from their dioceses or resort to loans to compensate the victims, not, however, preventing the faithful from doing so. donations for this purpose.

Following the conclusions of that commission, a Commission for Recognition and Reparation was created, which established the maximum limit foreseen for compensation at 60 thousand euros, an amount contested by some of the victims.

To date, less than 1% of survivors have initiated a repair process.


Since the 1980s, the Catholic Church in Ireland has been at the center of several scandals, including sexual abuse of minors, but also illegal adoptions and girls being exploited by nuns.

The first accusations emerged in that decade and, since 2002, several reports and investigations have accounted for more than 15,000 cases of sexual abuse committed between the 1960s and 1990s.

Sexual violence has driven hundreds of victims to suicide.

The complaints resulted in civil and criminal trials and the government created a financial compensation mechanism, but the Irish Church, accused of “turning a blind eye” to the abuses, resisted paying compensation, although resignations were recorded in the Catholic hierarchy.


More than 6,500, or 6% of priests in the United States, have been accused of molesting children since 1950 and the Catholic Church has paid more than 3,000 million dollars (2.8 billion euros) in settlements with victims, according to studies commissioned by US bishops and media articles.

In Pennsylvania, an investigation released in August 2018 identified more than 1,000 victims and 300 priest abusers between the 1940s and early 2000s.

In October 2020, the diocese of Rockville Center, in New York, declared bankruptcy for being unable to meet the costs of pending child abuse lawsuits, after having compensated more than 300 victims since 2017.

A New York state law allowed victims to report abuse for two years, regardless of the statute of limitations.

Systematic sexual abuse and the church’s efforts to cover it up were first reported publicly in Boston Globe articles about the Boston diocese in 2002.

After the scandal, close to 500 lawsuits were filed against dozens of priests and for malpractice against the Archdiocese of Boston and, in 2003, a settlement was reached with the victims of almost 85 million dollars (79.7 million euros) .

The newspaper’s investigation gave rise to the film “The Spotlight case”, which won the Oscar for Best Film and Best Original Screenplay in 2016.


In March 2021, an independent report was presented, requested by the Catholic Church in Germany, which concluded that 314 minors were victims of sexual violence by 202 members of the clergy and laity between 1975 and 2018 in the German diocese of Cologne, the largest in the country.

After the release of the report, which revealed that senior officials in the diocese had been negligent in reporting and handling the abuses, the archbishop of Hamburg resigned.

Another report, also commissioned by the Church and released in January 2022, denounces a systematic cover-up of cases of child abuse between 1945 and 2019 in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

Among those in charge of that archbishopric accused of having done nothing to prevent or stop the abuses is Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who led the archdiocese between 1977 and 1982, before being elected Pope in 2005.

Pope Benedict XVI resigned in 2013 and it was as Pope emeritus that he rejected any responsibility in the case.

The Vatican noted that Ratzinger fought the phenomenon “as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” and promulgated as Pope “extremely severe regulations against clergy who abuse”, in addition to having been “the first Pope to meet several times victims of abuse during his apostolic journeys”.

Pope Francis, for his part, reiterated that the Church remained firm in its commitment to provide justice to the victims, after the Vatican expressed, shortly after the release of the report, its “feeling of shame and remorse”.


An Australian royal commission into how the Catholic Church and other institutions in the country have responded to child sexual abuse over more than 90 years received nearly 4,500 complaints at nearly 1,000 Catholic institutions between 1980 and 2015.

Among the victims were overrepresented children of aboriginal origin and from the Torres Strait Islands, the target of the assimilationist policy, which forcibly removed them from their families and placed them in residential homes between 1905 and the 1970s.

The commission’s report, released in 2017, concluded that there had been “catastrophic failures in the leadership of Catholic Church authorities over many decades” and implicated hundreds of religious, 93 of whom were senior Church officials.

Australian Cardinal George Pell was the highest official of the Catholic Church to face accusations, having been formally accused of five sexual assaults on two minors in the 1990s, when he was secretary for the Economy, the third most important figure in the Vatican. .

Sentenced to six years in jail in December 2018 for acts committed at St. Patrick when he was Archbishop of Melbourne, Pell was released after 404 days in prison after the High Court of Australia acquitted him.

The commission recommended that the Australian Bishops’ Conference ask the Vatican to consider introducing voluntary celibacy for the clergy, as well as clarifying the issue of secrecy of confession when evidence of crimes against minors is at stake.

He also advised the payment of compensation with a maximum limit of 200,000 Australian dollars (close to 127,000 euros), which the government reduced to 150,000 Australian dollars (95,000 euros) and which should be paid in part by the Church.

Some of the abuse survivors also obtained compensation through civil courts.


The Catholic Church in New Zealand publicly revealed in February 2022, for the first time, the scale of abuse, including sexual abuse, perpetrated since the 1950s by clergy and other religious against more than a thousand people, half of whom are minors.

The report revealed that nearly half of the 1,680 complaints, filed by 1,122 people, involved sexual harm occurring primarily in educational facilities or residential homes, and that 75% of the abuses occurred before the 1990s.

Two years earlier, the government commission had revealed in a draft document that an estimated 250,000 children and vulnerable adults had been mistreated since 1950.

Cardinal John Dew, president of the New Zealand Conference of Catholic Bishops, said these statistics were “horrible”. “Something we are deeply ashamed of,” he said.


During a trip to Canada in July 2022, Pope Francis asked Indigenous Canadians for forgiveness for the abuses committed in Catholic schools in the past, lamenting that some members of the Church have “cooperated” in policies of “cultural destruction”.

From 1800 to 1980, nearly 150,000 indigenous children were forced to leave their families and attend state schools, most of which were run by the Catholic Church. Thousands of children were sexually abused and at least 6,000 children died in these institutions.

The assimilation policy was dubbed by a commission of inquiry, launched by the church, a “cultural genocide”.

In Canada, the Pope said his apology was a first step, advocating a “serious investigation” into the abuse so that survivors’ traumas could be overcome.


In 2020, a commission was created at the request of the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, when the first cases of abuse against minors in the Austrian Catholic Church were revealed.

A year later, the commission revealed that it had been contacted by 837 alleged victims, whose cases took place in the 1960s and 1980s, the majority in five Catholic institutions.

The independent commission forwarded information on cases of sexual abuse to the Public Ministry and determined the need for financial compensation in 192 cases.

These compensations would be paid to recognized victims through a compensation fund set up by the Austrian Catholic Church.

Commission president Waltraud Klasnic, former governor of the federal state of Styria, said that in “more than 200 cases”, victims of sexual abuse “were able to choose between whether they wanted an “apology, therapy or financial help”.


The Catholic Church in Poland admitted in March 2019 that 382 members of the clergy had sexually abused 625 children between 1990 and 2018.

Pointing out that the data resulted from a voluntary questionnaire to the dioceses, activists from an organization that helped victims said that the Church’s numbers were “manifestly lower” than the real, representing only 0.8% of Polish clergy, according to the Child Rights think tank. International Network.

After the release of the report, the Archbishop Primate of Poland publicly apologized to the victims.


In September 2022, Nobel Peace Prize winner Ximenes Belo, former bishop of Dili, was accused of sexually abusing minors in the 1980s and 1990s in Timor-Leste.

Dutch newspaper De Groene Amsterdammer published testimonies of alleged victims and said it had heard from 20 other people with knowledge of the case, including “individuals, government officials, politicians, civil society organization officials and elements of the Church”.

He indicated that the first investigations into the alleged abuses date back to 2002, when a Timorese man denounced that his brother was the victim of abuse.

In November of that year, Ximenes Belo announced his resignation, citing health problems and the need for a long recovery period.

After the publication of the article, the Vatican announced that it had imposed disciplinary sanctions on the Timorese bishop in 2020, after becoming aware of alleged sexual abuse of minors by the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

These sanctions included limits on the bishop’s movements and the exercise of his ministry, as well as the prohibition of having voluntary contacts with minors or with Timor-Leste.

The measures were “modified and reinforced” in November 2021 and on both occasions Ximenes Belo, currently residing in Portugal, formally accepted the punishment, according to the Vatican.


The representative of Pope Francis in the country, Franco Coppola, admitted in May 2021 that members of the Mexican Church “covered up” for years the cases of abuse in the country, for which there are more than 271 priests denounced, according to the Instituto Humanitas Unisinos (IHU), from the University of Vale do Rio dos Sinos, in Brazil.


The Colombian Catholic Church announced last month that it will ask for forgiveness from victims of sexual abuse committed in the country by its members.


The Permanent Committee of the Episcopal Conference of Chile has published a list with the names of 43 priests and a deacon convicted, by civil or canonical justice, of sexual abuse of minors.

The case of Father Fernando Karadima, sentenced in 2011 by canonical justice to a life of seclusion and penance for sexually abusing at least four minors in the 1980s, was one of those that stood out.

Karadima was covered up for decades by a network of priests and bishops, including Juan Barros, appointed bishop in March 2015 by Pope Francis.

The Pope later admitted to having committed “serious errors” in the analysis of the scandal and received the victims in the Vatican, to whom he personally apologized.

By May 2018, the 34 clerics implicated in the case had resigned, including Juan Barros.

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