Portuguese bishops announce financial compensation fund for Church abuse victims

Bishop José Ornelas Carvalho, the bishop of Leiria-Fátima, Portugal On April 11, 2024, Bishop José Ornelas Carvalho Leiria-Fátima, Portugal, said that a “fundamental team” would be convened in order to determine the total amounts of compensation awarded to abuse victims.  | Credit: Santuário de Fátima

The Portuguese Episcopal Conference announced on Thursday the creation of a “financial compensation” fund for victims of Church abuse in that country.

The Conferência Episcopal Portuguesa (CEP) said on its website that the bishops at their plenary assembly “unanimously approved the allocation of financial compensation, on a supplementary basis, to victims of sexual abuse against vulnerable children and adults in the context of the Catholic Church in Portugal.”

The assembly had convened in Fátima on Monday of this week. The fund “will count on the solidarity contribution of all dioceses” in the country, the announcement said. 

An independent commission authorized by the Portuguese bishops found last year that thousands of children had been sexually abused by priests and others within the Church in that country since the 1950s.

The commission, which began its work in January 2022, received a total of 564 testimonies, of which it validated 512. Many of the victims who testified said they knew of other children who also had been abused. 

Officials ultimately estimated “a minimum number of 4,815 children” abused by Church officials there. 

On Thursday, Leiria-Fátima Bishop José Ornelas Carvalho said that a “fundamental team” would be convened in order to determine the total amounts of compensation awarded to abuse victims. 

Carvalho, who serves as president of the CEP, noted that “no amounts or contingents have been fixed for each diocese” and that “if a diocese has more difficulties of means, it will not be alone in this situation.”

The conference will “take until the end of this year to collect the applications” for the fund, the prelate said. 

The conference in its announcement expressed “communion with the suffering of the victims,” adding that the Portuguese bishops “reaffirm the total commitment to do everything for their reparation.”

Last year, announcing steps to end sexual abuse in the Portuguese Church including all-lay diocesan commissions and a memorial to victims, the bishops expressed “deep gratitude to all the victims who have given their testimony” to the investigation. 

Father Manuel Barbosa, a spokesman for the conference, said at the time that the bishops also offered “a word of courage to all the victims who still harbor the pain in the depths of their hearts.”

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