Granada, Spain, Nov 19, 2014 / 16:11 pm
The Archdiocese of Granada, Spain, has defended its response to the case of three priests accused of abusing an underage boy over a decade ago, offering solidarity to the alleged victim.
"From the moment credible reports of the accusations were filed before the Holy See by a young man from Granada alleging sexual abuse by a group of priests of the diocese, this archdiocese has scrupulously followed the procedures established by canonical discipline for these cases, which is available to all on the home page of the Holy See's own website," the archdiocese said in a statement this week.
The alleged sexual abuse took place approximately a decade ago, when the alleged victim was an adolescent. The now 24-year-old man recently filed a lawsuit against the priests.
"Once it was learned the lawsuit had been filed, the archbishop made himself available to civil authorities to collaborate in whatever way necessary, which he has done up to now," the archdiocese said.
In response to reports in the media that he did not act soon enough in the case, Granada Archbishop Javier Martinez Fernandez told reporters in Madrid during the Spanish Bishops' fall assembly that in mid-October the alleged victim asked him for a pause in ecclesial action against the priests in order to allow civil authorities to proceed with their case. He said civil authorities made the same request.
According to Europa Press, Archbishop Martinez Fernandez explained that he learned of the charges of abuse in mid-August, not from the Holy See but from a letter the young man sent to the archdiocese in which he said he had written to Pope Francis.
The archbishop said he then called the young man and spoke with him on the phone for two hours.
He told reporters that when the Holy See sent him a letter informing him that it had received the young man's accusations, he had already met with the alleged victim and had purchased him a ticket to fly to Rome. Archbishop Martinez Fernandez said Pope Francis did not speak directly with him.
Commenting on the fact that the victim contacted the Vatican directly and did not speak first with the Archdiocese of Granada, Archbishop Martinez Fernandez said that his biggest concern is not for himself, but for the damage that may have been done to the young man.
If the accusations are true, the archbishop said, "it causes me great sorrow, because there is no greater hurt than for someone who has chosen the mission of caring for others to abuse their trust, again, if this was the case. That is something that both canonical and civil authorities will have to determine."
Asked whether this case could lead to his resignation or removal, the Spanish archbishop said his life is not his own but belongs "to the Church and to the Pope."
"I am in God's hands. No, my resignation, my life, is not mine. My life is the Lord's, through the Church and the Holy Father."
Archbishop Martinez Fernandez said that while there are nine priests and two other men involved in the case, the Vatican has instructed him to "apply cautionary measures against three priests," because the others, although accused of having knowledge of the crimes, "were not involved."
The three priests have been suspended from active ministry, the archbishop reported.
The president of the Spanish Bishops' Conference, Bishop Ricardo Blazquez, told reporters, "The Church always and absolutely rejects the abuse of all persons, and with particular gravity, of children."
The Spanish bishops are "willing to collaborate," especially "the Archbishop of Granada, with civil authorities, the Curia, the Pope and the Church's efforts on these matters, and of course, with the courts as well."