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Baca, the Juárez priest arrested Saturday on abuse charges. Baca, the Juárez priest arrested Saturday on abuse charges.

Catholic church reveals at least 152 priests suspended for abuse in 9 years

Figure surprises head of survivors' group, who wants to see more information released

The Catholic church in Mexico has revealed that 152 priests have been suspended over the past nine years for child sex abuse, triggering demands that the clerics’ names and whereabouts be made public.

Rogelio Cabrera López, president of the Mexican Episcopal Conference (CEM), revealed the information Sunday, explaining that some of the priests are serving prison terms while others received non-custodial forms of punishment.

However, he didn’t disclose the number of victims.

Cabrera, who is also the archbishop of Monterrey, lamented that there is no national information system which compiles information related to cases of sexual abuse within the Catholic church and said that it was necessary to establish one.

He also said it was the responsibility of bishops to formally report to authorities all illegal acts detected within the church.

Responding to the church’s revelation, the Mexico director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a non-governmental organization founded in the United States, said he was taken by surprise that such a high number of priests have been suspended for committing sexual abuses against children.

Joaquín Aguilar told the newspaper Milenio that he will meet with Cabrera on Friday to demand more information about the priests including their names and current location as well as details about the church’s treatment of victims.

“It’s information that we’ve sought for years but everything seems to indicate that it was given from the Nunciature because they don’t even have a registry [of priest sex offenders] in Mexico. These processes are orders by the Vatican. It [the information] was incomplete. The number shocks us because we had no idea, but we have to see where the priests are, if there was justice, a judicial process independent of the canonical one, a civil one,” Aguilar said.

“There are several aspects about which we need to be better informed, obviously to help the victims [but] also so as not to abandon the culprits. If they already paid a debt to society, what else are they doing [to repent], in what way can we help them to rehabilitate,” he added.

The disclosure of the number of priests who have been suspended comes in the lead-up to a global bishops’ summit that will be held in Vatican City later this month and whose main focus will be the prevention of abuse of minors.

José Francisco Gómez Hinojosa, vicar general of the archdiocese of Monterrey, said that Cabrera is mindful of his obligations as an archbishop and president of the episcopal conference, explaining that he has met with victims of sexual abuse and will continue to do so in accordance with instructions from Pope Francis.

The most recent case of alleged child sex abuse within the Catholic church in Mexico is that of Aristeo Trinidad Baca, a 76-year-old Ciudad Juárez priest who was arrested by Chihuahua state police on Saturday and placed in preventative custody.

The priest is accused of abusing an altar boy but some residents have leapt to his defense, going as far as making threats against the minor and his family.

Over the weekend, dozens of Baca’s supporters gathered outside the Ciudad Juárez prison where he is being held to pray for his release.

“The Father is a good person . . . We know the person he is, very attentive, full of charity, very kind, devoted to God . . . We don’t know why he is there [in prison] . . . but we ask God with all our heart to deliver justice because he is innocent,” said María de León, a local parishioner.

Hesiquio Trevizo, a spokesman for the Ciudad Juárez diocese, also defended Baca, describing him as “an icon of great service to the community.

The state human rights commission said it will provide support to the minor and his family, whose lawyer said the priority was that the boy be protected.

“. . . The minor and his family are at serious risk . . . I know from first-hand testimony that the family has been intimidated and had to leave their home,” Xóchitl Flores said.

Source: Milenio (sp), SDP Noticias (sp)

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