Pope Francis to Confront Portugal’s Clergy Abuse Scandal During World Youth Day.

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Pope Francis is expected to address the clergy abuse scandal in Portugal during his visit to Lisbon for World Youth Day, an international Catholic youth rally. The issue came to the forefront when a panel of experts exposed the harrowing accounts of child sex abuse victims within the Portuguese Catholic Church. The report revealed that at least 4,815 boys and girls had been abused since 1950, leading to the formation of Portugal’s first survivor advocacy group seeking compensation.

Portugal Confronts Decades of Abuse and Cover-ups

Portugal is the latest country to confront the decades-long issue of abuse by priests and cover-ups by bishops and religious superiors. The senior bishops’ initial response to the revelations was clumsy, denying the extent of the abuse and attempting to restore trust through an independent commission. However, the commission’s findings of nearly 5,000 victims and accused priests still in ministry proved more independent than anticipated.

The Church’s Changing Stance on Reparations

Initially, the church argued that reparations were a matter for the courts, and that individual perpetrators, not the institution, should be held liable for compensation. However, under public pressure, the church softened its stance and promised to provide help for victims and compensate them if the convicted perpetrators were unable to pay. The church authorities also suspended some priests named in the report, but critics argued that more should be done.

A Victim’s Journey and Call for Pope Francis’ Action

One abuse victim, Antonio Grosso, shared his painful experience of sexual abuse during his time at a religious shelter for boys in Fatima in the 1960s. He and other victims formed the Silenced Heart Association to support fellow survivors in seeking reparations and legal aid. Grosso expressed his hope that Pope Francis would address the issue while in Portugal and acknowledge the church’s contemptuous response to victims’ suffering.

Church’s Efforts to Address Abuse

The church in Portugal has apologized for the abuse and is working with victims’ support associations to develop procedures and tailored responses to sex abuse within the church. Staff at the World Youth Day are also receiving training on abuse prevention and recognition. However, the issue of clergy abuse extends far beyond Portugal, with many other countries facing similar challenges in addressing the problem.

Portugal’s reckoning with clergy abuse may lag behind other countries but is not an outlier. The Catholic Church’s response to clergy abuse has been mixed across different regions, and efforts to address the issue are ongoing in many parts of the world.

SOURCE: Ref Image from The New York Times

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