A US group is accusing Mexican bishops of covering up for priests implicated in sex abuse

Associated Press [New York NY]

July 27, 2023

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A U.S.-based group issued a list Thursday of 16 Mexican bishops and high-ranking clerics who allegedly covered up for priests accused of sexual abuse.

Massachusetts-based BishopAccountability is a non-profit organization that keeps track of how the Catholic hierarchy deals with allegations of sexual abuse by clergy. 

The group said Thursday that the Roman Catholic Church officials, some now retired, had “covered up for” abusers.

“We have now identified some leaders of the Catholic Church who appear to have covered, covered up for, abusers and discarded their victims,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, of BishopAccountability.org.

The list included Cardinals Norberto Rivera Carrera and Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, and Archbishops José Martín Rábago, Fabio Martínez Castilla, Felipe Aguirre Franco, Luis Morales Reyes, and Rafael Romo Muñoz.

A representative of the Mexican Council of Bishops said the claims were based on news reports without formal complaints or legal cases. 

Archbishops Franco Coppola, a former papal ambassador to Mexico, told local media last year the Vatican is investigating 12 Mexican bishops to determine whether they may have covered up for alleged abusers. 

Pope Francis has pledged that the Catholic Church will adhere to a zero-tolerance policy on clergy sexual abuse.

But Barrett Doyle said that in practice, “that is not true.”

“Of the 250 priests in our data base … I have been surprised by the number of cover-ups and those who covered for them in every one of the cases,” Barrett Doyle said.

One of the best-known cases is that of Fernando Martínez Suárez, a former Mexican priest who was accused of abuse as far back as 1992.

The victims’ families reported him to the Legion of Christ religious order — itself discredited because of its pedophile founder — starting in 1992, but Martinez was merely transferred to a seminary in Salamanca, Spain, with no formal restrictions on his ministry. He was finally defrocked in 2020 but suffered no other punishment. He died recently in Italy.

BishopAccountability.org is a 20-year-old group that maintains an online archive documenting the global abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church.