Vatican investigators to meet with Mexican sex abuse victims, bishops

SciclunaFeb182019VaticanAbuseSummitCNADanielIbanez900600 Archbishop Charles Scicluna speaks at the Vatican abuse summit in Feb. 2019. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

The Vatican is sending Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Monsignor Jordi Bertomeo to Mexico this month to meet with sex abuse victims and to strengthen the Mexican bishops' fight against sexual abuse.

"We have tried to fight in a responsible, transparent and clear way against the culture of abuse and cover-up that allows it to perpetuate itself. This conviction, which stems from accompanying the victims in their pain, seeking justice and healing, led us to request support from the Holy See through the Apostolic Nunciature," the Mexican bishops' conference said in a statement March 2.

Scicluna and Bertomeu will travel to Mexico March 20-27. This team from the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith previously investigated the Church in Chile's response to sex abuse allegations in 2018, which eventually led every Chilean bishop to submit their resignations to Pope Francis.

During their trip to Mexico, the two are scheduled to meet with all of the country's bishops in Casa Lago outside of Mexico City on March 20. They will meet with the superiors of religious orders in Mexico on March 23.

For the remaining five days, Scicluna and Bertomeu will be available at the Mexico City nunciature to meet with sex abuse victims or "anyone who would like to share their experiences." A statement put out by the Apostolic Nunciature provides a phone number and email address for people who would like to schedule a meeting.

In the past decade, 271 priests in Mexico have been investigated for sexual abuse and 152 priests have been removed from ministry due to incidents of abuse, according to the Mexican bishops' conference president Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera.

A report released in December by the Legionaries of Christ religious order stated that since the group's founding in Mexico in 1941, 33 priests of the Legionaries of Christ committed sexual abuse of minors, victimizing 175 children.

Scicluna, the archbishop of Malta, is widely known for his expertise in the canonical norms governing allegations of sexual abuse. In 2015 he was named by the pope to oversee the team in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith charged with handling appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse. He served as the congregation's promoter of justice for 17 years and conducted the investigation into the Legionaries' founder Fr. Marcial Maciel in 2002-2003.

The Church in Mexico has expressed its support in 2020 for several bills to eliminate the statute of limitations for the sexual abuse of minors, which stands now at ten years.

The Mexican bishops' conference said they hope the visit by Scicluna and Bertomeu will help to protect and benefit "the most vulnerable."

"We trust that it will serve to improve the response to these cases, seeking the action of civil and canonical justice under the principle of 'zero tolerance' so that no case goes unpunished in our Church," Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera of Monterrey and Auxiliary Bishop Alfonso G. Miranda wrote in a statement.

"We pray to God and Our Lady of Guadalupe, so that this important mission helps us as a Church to act promptly and fairly to eradicate these crimes and all forms of abuse against minors, inside and outside the Church; and to strengthen the faith, hope and charity of the people of God who pilgrimage in Mexico," the bishops said.

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