Patriarch assures that “Zero Tolerance” to abuse is a concern “from the first hour”

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Patriarch assures that “Zero Tolerance” to abuse is a concern “from the first hour”

The Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, Manuel Clemente, assured today that “from the very beginning” he gave instructions, in the Patriarchate, “so that Zero Tolerance and Total Transparency are the rule known to all” regarding the abuse of minors.
In an open letter in which he seeks to clarify what he “witnessed” in the case of the priest accused of abuse denounced in 1999 to the former patriarch, José Policarpo, and revealed this week by the newspaper Observador – which reports that “two decades later” the current patriarch met with the victim, “who did not want to disclose the case”, so the judicial authorities were not informed, – Manuel Clemente says he accepts that “this case and others of public knowledge and that have been dealt with in the past, do not correspond to the standards and recommendations that today” everyone wants to “see implemented”.
According to Manuel Clemente, his predecessor “received and dealt with the case in question taking into account the canonical and civil recommendations of the time and the dialogue with the victim’s family. The priest was removed from the parish where he was and appointed to serve in a hospital chaplaincy”.
“Once a patriarch, I made an appointment with the victim, which was postponed at her request. In 2019, returning from the Meeting of the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe on the theme ‘Protection of Minors in the Church’ promoted by the Holy Father in Rome, on the subject of abuse, I asked for a new meeting with the victim, with whom I spoke in person. His concern was that there would be no repetition of the case, without expressly desiring its disclosure”, says the patriarch in the open letter released today.
The cardinal understands that he was not “facing a renewed denunciation of the one made in 1999. If that had been the case, it would have been sent to the Diocesan Commission, created at that time, and all the procedures recommended at the time would have been carried out”.
“I remind you that the rules and recommendations of July 16, 2020 are later”, writes Manuel Clemente, adding that “in relation to the priest in question, he was monitored and to date there has never been any complaint or repair about his moral behavior. . No one has ever reported, not even anonymously, any accusation.”
In this open letter that the cardinal patriarch released “given the many misunderstandings and perplexities” that he says he has found “in relation to the reports of the painful case denounced in 1999”, the importance of “care and concern for the victims” is underlined, at the same time that the regret is left for “all the suffering that this situation may cause to this victim in particular and to all the others”, whether they are known or not.
Manuel Clemente also assures that the Patriarchate has “since the beginning of the creation of the Diocesan Commission, the first in the country, has tried to fulfill and enforce all civil and canonical recommendations”.
Thus, three complaints have already been forwarded to the Diocesan Commission of the Patriarchate of Lisbon, “by me or directly by the victims. The first was accompanied by the diocese of Vila Real, the second is currently responding to what the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith has decided, following the recommendations that our Commission has given me. As soon as we have the outcome on it, it will be released. The third and most recent one involving inappropriate messages sent by ‘WhatsApp’ is also under consideration by the Commission, which has already made recommendations to me which I immediately followed up on”, writes the patriarch.
“Let no one be afraid to report. In the Diocesan Commissions, in the Independent Commission, in the PGR, in the PJ, to the media, wherever and with whom they feel safer”, urges Manuel Clemente.
The 1999 case was reported by the newspaper Observador, on Wednesday, reporting that the current Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, Manuel Clemente, “became aware of a complaint of sexual abuse of minors concerning a priest of the Patriarchate and even reached meet the victim personally, but chose not to communicate the case to the civil authorities and to keep the priest active with chaplaincy functions”.
“In addition, the priest continued to manage a private association where he welcomes families, young people and children, with the knowledge of D. Manuel Clemente. All because, justifies the Patriarchate to the Observer, the victim, who claims to have suffered abuse in the 1990s, did not want his case to be public and just wanted the abuse not to be repeated”, reported the newspaper.
According to the Observador investigation, the patriarch’s actions “contrary (…) the current internal rules of the Catholic Church for this type of situation, which determine the communication to civil authorities of all cases”, adding that “data on this specific case are among the more than 300 complaints already received by the Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuses against Children in the Portuguese Catholic Church — and the name of this priest is also one of seven that are already in the hands of the Judiciary Police to be investigated”.

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