More than 4,800 victims of sexual abuse uncovered in Portugal’s Catholic Church

BBC [London, England]

February 13, 2023

By Alison Roberts

An independent commission looking into the sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church said on Tuesday it had documented cases pointing to at least 4,815 victims.

Set up by the Portuguese Episcopal Conference to examine abuse in recent decades, the commission added this was the tip of the iceberg.

Presenting the report, the commission’s president, child psychiatrist Pedro Strecht, described its objective as “giving voice to the silence” of victims.

He paid tribute to the hundreds who contacted its staff to provide testimony.

“They have a voice; they have a name,” he said.

In all, the commission documented 564 experiences of people who said they had been victims of abuse by priests or other Church officials. The exercise looked at cases dating back to 1950.

In many cases, testimony pointed to other minors having been abused – hence the estimate of thousands of further victims.

Throughout his presentation, Mr Strecht quoted victims’ testimony, stressing the impact the abuse had on them. He cited the “black hole” in which one victim said that he had been living.

The president of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference, José Ornelas, Bishop of Leiria-Fátima, is due to make a statement later.

On Sunday, he said he had received the report “with gratitude”, and that an extraordinary session scheduled for 3 March would ponder the best way to offer “justice” to victims.

According to the commission, a total of 25 cases have been passed to public prosecutors. Many others fell outside the statute of limitations.

Among the recommendations the report makes is that, in cases of alleged sexual abuse of minors, the existing provision for victims to be able make a criminal complaint until the age of 25, even if the statute of limitation applies, should be raised to 30.