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Study Finds 4800 Suspected Victims Of Portugal Church Sex Abuse

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(CTN NEWS) – LISBON, Portugal – According to a report released on Monday by an expert panel looking into historical abuse in the church, more than 4,800 people may have been victims of child sex abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church, and 512 claimed victims have already stepped forward to speak out.

Senior church leaders in Portugal had asserted that only a small number of incidents existed.

Senior clerics sat in the front row in the auditorium while committee members read aloud some heartbreaking testimonies of alleged abuse, along with frightening and detailed descriptions.

Just over a year ago, Portuguese bishops established the Independent Committee for the Study of Child Abuse in the Catholic Church, which investigated reported cases from 1950.

The commission investigating allegations of historical child sexual abuse by members of the Portuguese Catholic church attends a news conference in Lisbon, Portugal, October 11, 2022. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Monday saw the release of the panel’s final report. The findings will be discussed by Portuguese bishops the following month.

For most of the alleged cases, the period of limitations has passed. According to the commission, just 25 allegations were forwarded to the prosecutors.

The report, which some have criticized as being long overdue, was released four years after Pope Francis convened world church leaders at the Vatican to discuss the sex abuse issue in the church.

The meeting was convened more than 20 years after the scandal hit the United States and more than 30 years after it originally broke out in Ireland and Australia.

Bishops and other Catholic leaders in several regions of Europe at the time either persisted on denying or downplaying the issue of priestly sex abuse.

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The panel in Portugal was led by a doctor named Pedro Strecht.

He stated that the group believes there were at least 4,815 victims in reality during that time. He omitted a description of the extrapolation methodology.

The panel is not disclosing the victims’ names, the names of the alleged perpetrators, or the locations where the alleged abuse took place.

But before the end of the month, it must deliver a list of alleged abusers still involved in the church to the bishops.

A second confidential annex with all the identities of church members submitted to the committee is included in the final report and is also sent to the Portuguese Bishops Conference and the police.

Whether the Portuguese church plans to compensate any victims has not been made clear.

The committee’s six members were psychiatrists, a former Supreme Court justice, and a social worker.

Pedro Stretch, child psychiatrist and head of the commission investigating allegations of historical child sexual abuse by members of the Portuguese Catholic church attends a news conference in Lisbon, Portugal, October 11, 2022. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

According to the research, 77% of the abusers were priests, while other offenders had ties to church organizations. It further stated that only 4% of victims reported to the police, and 77% of victims didn’t disclose the abuse to church officials.

According to the report, 48% of individuals who spoke up had disclosed the abuse for the first time. 47% of the claimed victims were female, although men made up the majority, according to the report.

It claimed there were “actual blackspots” for abuse in Portugal, including some seminaries and religious organizations.

The panel proposed raising the current 23-year statute of limitations for such offenses to at least 30 years.

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Alishba Waris is an independent journalist working for CTN News. She brings a wealth of experience and a keen eye for detail to her reporting. With a knack for uncovering the truth, Waris isn't afraid to ask tough questions and hold those in power accountable. Her writing is clear, concise, and cuts through the noise, delivering the facts readers need to stay informed. Waris's dedication to ethical journalism shines through in her hard-hitting yet fair coverage of important issues.

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