Colombian archdiocese publishes list of abuse complaints, actions taken

child Luis Vicens (CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0)

The Archdiocese of Medellín, Colombia, has published the list of complaints of sexual abuse by priests it has received in the last 30 years as well as the actions taken by the Church, which include filing 26 cases with the prosecutor’s office and another 23 sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

This is the report that the archdiocese sent to journalist Juan Pablo Barrientos in response to the request he made Feb. 19, 2021, and in compliance with the June 2, 2022, Constitutional Court ruling that ordered that the requested information be provided to him.

Barrientos is the author of the books “Let the Children Come to Me” and “Behold the Lamb of God.” Since 2018, he has been asking the Archdiocese of Medellín for information on reports of abuse committed by priests.

In a video posted Aug. 25 on the archdiocese’s social media, Archbishop Ricardo Antonio Tobón Restrepo of Medellín said that the report would be made public to prevent it from being manipulated or distorted because, as he noted, Barrientos “has been promoting an aggressive campaign to discredit the Catholic Church.”

In the video, the archdiocese played an audio in which the journalist says that “the Catholic Church is an international organized crime enterprise, a network of international pedophiles that commit crimes with impunity in all corners of the planet, shielding itself with the fervor of the people.”

The number of complaints received

The Archdiocese of Medellín reported that in the last 30 years it received 36 complaints. The oldest reported incident dates from 1984 and the most recent from 2019.

Of the total, the report states that 11 were canonically dismissed, “among other things, because the witnesses contradict each other or the evidence is inconsistent.”

Of the priests involved, seven remain as parish priests, one is suspended as a precautionary measure, one does not have a pastoral assignment, one is at home due to his advanced age, and one is incardinated in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Of the other 25 priests reported for abuse, six were expelled from the priesthood, eight are suspended as a precautionary measure, four remain as parish priests, two continue as parochial vicars, two have limited ministry, one has died, and two are still under investigation.

Cases sent to the CDF

The Archdiocese of Medellin stated that it sent the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith 23 complaints of pedophilia and child abuse. The oldest reported incident dates from 1995 and the most recent is from 2018.

Of the total number of priests reported for abuse, seven were expelled from the priesthood, seven are serving a canonical sentence, five have served the imposed sanction, and four are in the canonical process.

The archdiocese explained to the journalist that “the purpose of canon law is to advance proceedings against priests only when there are violations of said laws; In that regard, it should be noted that there are violations of canon law (Book VI, canons 1311 to 1399 of the Code of Canon Law) that do not constitute crimes defined in the penal code.”

“However, in any case, sexual abuse against minors is punishable under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction,” the archdiocese added.

Complaints filed with the Public Prosecutor’s Office

Finally, the archdiocese reported that 26 cases of accused priests were sent to the attorney general’s office.

More in Americas

The oldest reported incident is from 1995 and the most recent one dates from 2017.

Of the total complaints, 10 were sent to the prosecutor’s office on Oct. 10, 2019, one on June 23, 2020, one on Aug. 4, 2020, and 14 on Aug. 25, 2022.

In the archdiocese’s Aug. 25 video, Tobón deplored and condemned “the abuses committed by some priests” and pointed out that these cases “cannot be manipulated to say that the entire Church is an organized crime enterprise and an international network of pedophiles.”  

The archbishop thanked “the generous dedication” of the majority of members of the Church who dedicate themselves “to pastoral action and helping those most in need” and recalled the actions undertaken by the Catholic Church to educate minors and “combat pedophilia in all environments.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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