Portugese church faces 200 child sexual abuse allegations

Zahra Khan, Contributing Writer

A commission that has been investigating cases of sex abuse within the Portuguese Catholic Church has uncovered several allegations between 1993 to 2006. The sexual abuse allegations between these 13 years are said to have come from people all over the country, including Portuguese nationals living abroad. The sexual abuse of children was buried amongst a dark realm of secrets for a long period of time, which brings the question: who uncovered these allegations, and how? 

According to Reuters, there was a commission report made in France that revealed the shocking statistics of 3,000 religious officials early in January. These allegations included priests had sexually abused more than 200,000 children over the span of seventy years. Reports in France set the pressure to lift the veil of silence that the Portuguese Catholic Church tried to mask. 

According to another Reuters report, a commission led and funded by the Roman Catholic Church will handle and respond to the sexual cases. The head of the six-person commission, Pedro Strecht, claims that he would immediately walk out if the Church did anything to interfere with the various investigations. The commission claims to have its own phone line and website in which it gives victims the available space to share their traumatic stories, and the commission also provides historical files from the diocese. To combat the issue of concerns regarding online forms not reaching victims residing in isolated areas and/or those who have limited access to technology, the commission will attempt to get in contact with local charities. 

Spanish lawmakers took the first crucial step of opening a parliamentary inquiry on the issue in order for justice to be served. According to García Salmones, who not only is a spokesman of the Robbed Childhood Association of sexual abuse victims, but also among the victims who have received compensation from a religious order, the debate shifted from whether or not Spain should investigate the various abuses to “how to do it, and who should do it.” According to AP News, García emphasized he—among many others looking for justice—will not be happy until results appear. AP News reports 21 local groups across the country are assessing the child sex abuse case, following Pope Francis’ “appeal in 2019 for the church to address abuse allegations.” In particular, Pope Francis has “tried to sensitize the church to the problem of clergy abuse.” The Vatican has also not publicly responded to the El País reports or databases. 

The path to justice and the dark secrets of pained individuals coming to light can possibly be seen as a breakthrough. According to Miguel Hurtado, who has been an avid campaigner against impunity after disclosing his own experience of being abused in a monastery in northeastern Spain, he has “never seen real action as close as now.”