Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Vatican will send investigators to combat church sex abuse in Mexico

The Vatican will send its two leading sex crime investigators to Mexico this month on a fact-finding and assistance mission.

Catholic Church authorities in Vatican City and Mexico announced on Monday that Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Monsignor Jordi Bertomeo will visit Mexico between March 20 and 27.

The two investigators conducted an investigation in 2018 into the Catholic Church in Chile, where their work in exposing the protection of pedophile priests resulted in an offer of resignation from every active bishop in the country.

Church officials said Monday that the purpose of the two men’s deployment to Mexico was not to carry out an investigation but to complete an assistance mission to help the Mexican church combat abuse. Mexico has a decades-long history of sex abuse by priests and subsequent cover-ups.

Despite the assertion that Scicluna and Bertomeo will not conduct a probe into the Mexican Catholic Church, the Vatican embassy in Mexico City has expressly asked victims to come forward to speak with the two men, the Associated Press reported.

It has provided an e-mail address to which victims of church abuse can send their testimony and a telephone number they can call, and has guaranteed complete privacy and confidentiality.

The two prelates spoke with more than 60 victims in Chile and as a result prepared a 2,600-page report of church abuse in the South American country. Their report played a crucial role in helping Pope Francis understand that he had completely misread the problem of abuse and cover-up in the church he leads, AP said.

Following the announcement that the sex crime investigators will come to Mexico, the Mexican bishops conference said in a statement that it had requested the mission, asserting that it would be of assistance to the country’s most vulnerable, including children.

“We are certain it will help us respond better to these cases, looking for civil and canonical justice under the principle of ‘zero tolerance’ so that there is no impunity in our church,” the conference said.

In addition to speaking with victims who decide to come forward, Scicluna and Bertomeo will meet with Mexican bishops and other church leaders.

Their mission comes as church leaders in Mexico are beginning to publicly acknowledge the history of abuse as well as the concealment of that abuse. The Mexican Catholic Church admitted recently that over the past 10 years, it conducted internal investigations that examined sexual abuse allegedly committed by 271 priests.

The admission came after the lower house of Congress approved legislation that stipulates that the perpetrators of child sexual abuse can be prosecuted no matter how long ago their offenses took place. The Senate has not yet voted on the legislation but is expected to pass it when it does.

Two ruling party senators have also presented a proposal to create an independent commission to investigate clerical sex abuse but it has not yet faced a vote and some lawmakers have opposed the idea.

The Associated Press reported that Vatican officials have long known that only a small fraction of sexual abuse cases in Mexico, the world’s second largest Catholic country after Brazil, have been reported to them.

However, more victims are now coming forward to tell their stories. One is Ana Lucía Salazar, a television personality who was abused repeatedly as a young girl by a Legion of Christ priest in Cancún, Quintana Roo.

Her case was covered up by the church for 30 years until she spoke out last year. The attention she brought to the problem of sexual abuse in the Mexican Catholic Church compelled bishops in Mexico and the Vatican’s ambassador to publicly denounce the Legion, a Catholic institute founded by Mexican priest Marcial Maciel in 1941.

Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta, conducted an investigation into Maciel in 2002 and 2003 that found that he had raped and molested his seminarians. The priest was forced to give up his religious duties and retire to a life of atonement and prayer. He died in 2008.

Source: Associated Press (en) 

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