April 29, 2019
A Barcelona court sentenced Monday a former gym teacher at a Catholic school to over 20 years in jail for sexually assaulting students, in the latest abuse scandal rocking the church in Spain.
Joaquin Benitez, who taught for nearly three decades at a Barcelona school run by the Marist community, a Roman Catholic order at the centre of a clerical abuse scandal in Chile, got a jail term of 21 years and nine months for assaulting four students.
The court also ordered Benitez to pay the victims a total of 120,000 euros ($134,000). This is the first sentence since public accusations of abuse against Benitez in 2016 triggered a cascade of other complaints at two other Marist schools in Barcelona.
The ruling comes amid sustained criticism of the Vatican’s response to a decades-long sexual abuse crisis. The court said Benitez had an office with a bed “where he took students to give massages and treat injuries.”
His victims described behind closed doors at the trial in March how Benitez would summon them to his office and sexually abuse them. Benitez apologised to his victims as he left the court after the first day of the proceedings, justifying his behaviour by the fact that he himself had suffered sexual abuse as a student at Catholic boarding school.
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