The Catholic Church in Oaxaca was accused yesterday of covering up sexual crimes by one of its priests and punishing others who raised the accusations.
And one of the latter admitted that he — along with “the majority of priests in Oaxaca” — has a family.
Apolonio Merino Hernández made the admission after a press conference held by the Oaxaca Children’s Forum and various priests and activists, where the archbishop of Oaxaca was accused of covering up sexual abuse by Gerardo Silvestre Hernández.
The conference was told that Merino was transferred to a distant and remote parish in the Mixteca as punishment for speaking out against Silvestre and on behalf of victims. Last August, he was suspended.
As many as 100 indigenous youngsters are believed to have been abused by Silvestre, beginning in 2006.
The priest was on a six-month internship in San Pablo Huitzo where he abused a nine-year-old boy, the conference was told, after which there were “more than 100 victims” in seven different parishes where Silvestre served.
Although the church has reportedly exonerated him, the state has not. He was jailed in 2013 after the state Attorney General accused him of corrupting minors in connection with the abuse of two boys in another indigenous community, Villa Alta.
Silvestre remains in jail awaiting trial.
Speakers yesterday said church authorities in Oaxaca refused to meet with any of the victims, despite the efforts of Merino to have them do so.
They accused archbishop José Luis Chávez Botello of protecting Silvestre and covering up the case by not submitting all the evidence to the Vatican.
The meeting also heard from the mother of one victim, who read from a letter she has written to Pope Francis, asking for justice for the victims.
In a radio interview yesterday, Merino said it was hoped that Francis, who visits Mexico next month, will meet with those victims.
It was during the same interview that Merino admitted he had had a relationship with a woman and had fathered children with her. He estimated that 70% of the 124 priests who work in Oaxaca’s 112 parishes have families, contrary to the church’s dictate regarding celibacy.