.- The bishops of Colombia said that the Church will prevent and confront sexual abuse through the formation of seminarians and by encouraging parents of victims to report their cases to civil authorities.
“The Church is aware that she must be in permanent process of renewal that includes purification and analysis what is going wrong in order to rectify it,” Archbishop Ruben Salazar, head of the Colombian bishops' conference, told newspaper El Tiempo on Feb. 11.
He said the victims of abuse should not only notify Church officials but also civil authorities, since civil and ecclesial trials are separate from each other.
“Our duty is to raise awareness about denouncing these abuses,” he said.
At the same time, Archbishop Salazar continued, “Priests must not be denied the right to rehabilitation, to undergo a process of psychological healing. Every person has this right, including the harshest of criminals.”
However, he clarified, the psychological healing of a priest guilty of abuse does not mean he can return to ministry.
The archbishop said that in Colombia, only “Four or five cases have been reported to the Vatican regarding persons who are already in jail.”
“We need to remember that in Colombia and in the rest of the world, the percentage of cases involving clergy is minute compared with the number of cases in general and the number of priests. It’s not even one percent,” he noted, observing a trend within the media to misrepresent the Church in this area.
“What has occurred is that the cases of pedophilia in the Church have been exaggerated in order to portray the Church as a corrupt institution in which all priests are sexually depraved and in which no child can feel safe,” he added. “This has been a demeaning campaign that has no basis in reality.”
Archbishop Salazar recognized, though, that while every human being is weak, people don’t expect priests to commit these crimes and rightly so. Priests “should be perfect models from the moral point of view. They must live their lives with absolute uprightness,” he said.
He noted that seminaries around the world today are striving to provide future priests with an understanding of authentic chastity and a greater ability to resist the temptations of a sex-saturated culture.
Archbishop Salazar also underscored in his comments that the victims of abuse suffer “psychological and moral repercussions that need to be healed. And the Church should contribute to this recuperation through spiritual guidance.”