A church is seen on the day Portugal's commission investigating allegations of historical child sexual abuse by members of the Portuguese Catholic church will unveil its report, in Lisbon Feb. 13, 2023. OSV News photo/Pedro Nunes, Reuters

4,800+ children abused in Portuguese Church: report

By  Jonathan Luxmoore, OSV News
  • February 15, 2023

A final report on abuse of children in Portugal’s Catholic Church has revealed more than 4,800 children had been victims of clergy sexual abuse in the country from 1950 to 2022.

Responding to the Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuse of Children in the Catholic Church, the president of the Portuguese bishops’ conference, Bishop José Ornelas Carvalho, apologized to the victims and thanked the Church-sponsored commission for highlighting the abuse by Catholic clergy. He also pledged that surviving perpetrators would be removed from office.

“Zero tolerance toward abuse has to be a reality throughout the Church — we will not tolerate abuses or abusers,” Ornelas said. “This is an open wound that hurts and shames us, and we ask forgiveness from all the victims — those who courageously gave testimony, silent for so many years, and those still living with pain in the depths of their hearts.”

In a statement, Ornelas said the report revealed a “harsh and tragic reality” of “perversity” among “clerics and other pastoral agents,” who would have to “reckon” with “the resulting civil, criminal and moral responsibilities,” while sincerely repenting and seeking “a radical change in their lives with the help of competent people.”

Pedro Strecht, the commission’s coordinator and president, presented the report Feb. 13, sharing that 512 testimonies of abuse had been validated out of 564 received between January and October of 2022. 

He added that it was not possible to quantify the total number of crimes, since some children had suffered multiple abuses, but said the data pointed to “very minimum total” of 4,815 victims since 1950.

According to the report, 77 per cent of the abusers were priests, and other perpetrators were linked to Church institutions. 

Ornelas said the Portuguese bishops’ conference would analyze the report and announce “concrete measures” at a plenary on March 3 to ensure “effective and adequate mechanisms” in resolving abuse cases and ensuring greater prevention.

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