Filipe Diniz tells Lusa he doesn't believe the repory into child sex abuse within the Catholic Church will affect World Youth Day, arriving in Lisbon in August. Image: José Coelho/ Lusa

Church believes sexual abuse report “won’t affect World Youth Day”

Day in fact may well “increase religious vocation” – priest tells Lusa

The director of the National Department of Youth Ministry (DNPJ) believes the release of the report on child sexual abuse by members of the clergy in Portugal will not affect World Youth Day, but admits that the situation has “shaken” the Church.

In a wide ranging interview he went so far as to suggest that World Youth Day, already creating a fervour of touristic speculation, could in fact increase religious vocation, as he believes it “will touch and awaken the hearts of some young people to give themselves to this Church of Jesus Christ” – and ostensibly ignore completely the issues of previous generations, highlighted by Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuse of Children in the Portuguese Catholic Church. 

Father Filipe Diniz considered all the work that has been done “by the Catholic Church in combating the problem” is to be “welcomed” – stressing “the transparency” of the process.

“If there is a criminal, he must be judged (…). And Pope Francis has stressed several times the zero tolerance” regarding sexual abuse in the Church, Father Filipe Diniz said, acknowledging to Lusa news agency that the Church “shudders” with these cases.

“But if there is truth, transparency, we are being Church. The truth clarifies. It may shake the structure (…), the people themselves, the credibility, but if (…) we are being true and it is the truth that shows all this, shows these situations, I think that in that sense it is good,” he continued.

While praising the work of the diocesan commissions for the protection of minors and of the Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuse of Children in the Portuguese Catholic Church, led by child psychiatrist Pedro Strecht, Filipe Diniz did not hide the fact that the issue of abuse is “a very sensitive subject”, but made a point of manifesting his confidence that “transparency and truth” give the Church “strength and motivation”.

In this context, he believes that the World Youth Day taking place in Lisbon between 1 and 6 August this year “will not be” affected by the conclusions of the report of the Independent Commission to be published in 13 days time.

The commission – which, in addition to Pedro Strecht, includes psychiatrist Daniel Sampaio, former justice minister Álvaro Laborinho Lúcio, sociologist Ana Nunes de Almeida, social worker and family therapist Filipa Tavares and film director Catarina Vasconcelos – began receiving testimonies on 11 January 2022 and less than a week later, had already validated 102 of those reports.

Months later, on 11 October, the Independent Commission, in what was its last public communication of data, announced that it had already validated 424 testimonies, assuming that most of the reported crimes had already ‘expired’ from the point of view of allowing prosecutions. 

Seventeen of the cases, however, have been reported to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

“The minimum number of victims will be much higher than the 400, and the abuses include all the forms described in Portuguese law”, Pedro Strecht said in October

The Portuguese Bishops’ Conference (CEP), meanwhile, says it is prepared to “take the appropriate measures” required by the report but refused to set any expectations regarding the results of the document.

According to Father Manuel Barbosa, “the expectation will be that elements emerge from it that allow us to continue taking measures, and new measures, so that this scourge, this drama, is eradicated from the life of the Church as much as possible”.

Souce material: LUSA