Daniel Sampaio was one of the members of the Independent Commission which delivered its damning report last month: Photo: Lusa

Bishops accused of lying: “they know details of abusive priests”

“We have to distinguish bishops from Church itself” – psychiatrist

Psychiatrist Daniel Sampaio has denied that the Church only received a list with names of priests suspected of sexually abusing children and teens.

“It’s not true”, said the member of the Independent Commission which delivered its damning report last month.

“The list was obtained from the denunciations of victims – in which victim X says he/ she was abused by priest Y – and from the investigation resulting from the group of investigation with (the help of Church) archives. The list that was delivered results from the junction of these two”.

In statements to Lusa, Daniel Sampaio emphasised that there was work done over the past year in all dioceses with the bishops and that “each name is known to the dioceses“; bishops have already by “confronted with the records”, indeed “there are already bishops working on the matter”.

In other words, Bishop D. Ornelas’ discourse on Friday was at best a delaying tactic; at worst an attempt at obfuscation.

And “when the Cardinal Patriarch (Manuel Clemente) says that the Church has no data, this is (also) not true“, said the psychiatrist, who reiterated: “It is not a list of names that fell from the sky…”

Daniel Sampaio has joined the voices regretting Friday’s performance by the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference (CEP), but seems to believe it has made them an irrelevance.

“I was disappointed, but not disquieted, because the report had a huge impact. We have to distinguish the bishops from the Church itself”, he told Lusa. There are many Catholic movements demonstrating; the situation will not stop. A dynamic of discussion has been created, this is only a delay of the problem“.

Questioned also about the bishops’ refusal to suspend priests still active today who have been denounced by victims who claim they were sexually abused in the past, he “justified that suspension is not synonymous with condemnation, but can be essential from the clinical point of view”.

“Suspension is not a condemnation. It is important to suspend because, from the psychiatric point of view, there is a high probability of these people repeating their behaviour. Suspension is preventive for investigation and if nothing is found, the priest is reinstated,” he said, adding the obvious: “It does not seem legitimate to me that a person under suspicion can continue to exercise his or her ministry”.

Daniel Sampaio’s condemnation of the attitude emerging from last Friday’s press conference is just one of many criticisms as religious groups and associations continue to push bishops to ‘change their stance’, leaving them exposed as it does to having totally ‘misread the room’.

Executive director of Correio da Manhã, Paulo João Santos, wrote in today’s edition that what came out of Friday’s meeting was an attempt to “reduce blame and responsibilities. In practice, the Episcopal Conference washed its hands like (Pontius) Pilate. It is not surprising that the Catholic community feels betrayed”. The very least to have been expected from the bishops was that abusive priests would be suspended, and that bishops who covered abuses up over the years “would resign”, he said.

This of course, could be deeply complicated given that both Bishop D. Ornelas and Cardinal Patriarch Manuel Clemente have been accused of ‘covering up’ abuses in the past.

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