Ecclesiastic tribunal said priest “could not prove accusations”
The priest who denounced 12 cases of colleagues whom he suspected of having sexually abused children – some of them still priests today – has been punished by Portugal’s Catholic Church.
Joaquim Nazaré took his suspicions to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and the Independent Commission tasked with investigating child sex abuse within the Church over the last 70 years.
At a point where this scandal within the Roman Catholic Church was finally being addressed by various countries, Nazaré also gave interviews to Expresso and RTP (at the time, his identity was kept secret).
Among Nazaré’s list of names was that of a priest who for various years has been placed at the Sanctuary of Fátima but who was accused by the parents of a teenager who committed suicide in 1997 of having abused their son.
The inference was that the youngster’s trauma, having taken place in 1994, led to him committing suicide.
But the complaint against Father Nuno Aurélio ended up being archived, explains Expresso, “because it was presented (to authorities) 19 years after the alleged crimes took place, and they had prescribed (meaning the time limit for filing charges had run out).
Father Nuno Aurélio at this point “advanced with a criminal complaint against Joaquim Nazaré, and ecclesiastic justice has ruled in his favour”, the paper goes on.
“The accused (Nazaré) cannot prove any of his accusations against the author (of the complaint)”, read the sentence.
“Given that the burden of proof is on the accuser, it is clear that the defendant’s statements are defamatory and slanderous”, the ruling, reached last summer, continued.
The judges of the Patriarchal Tribunal of Lisbon “having carefully studied the case”, “considering only the Glory of God” and “invoking the Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ” applied as “just penalty” the “retraction” (of the allegation) and “payment equivalent to one’s month’s salary” to revert to the fund of the clergy, explains Expresso.
“Nazaré – who had never appeared before the court – was condemned in two forms: he had to apologise not simply “personally” to Nuno Aurélio, but “publicly through diocesan channels” as a form of “reparation for the scandal”, and pay a month’s salary out of his pocket, said the paper.
While he did not comply, he has been “prohibited from exercising any public office in the territory of the Lisbon Patriarchate, especially that of a parish priest”.
Contacted by Expresso, Nazaré has not made any comments. But in a document sent to the Patriarchal Tribunal in August, Nazaré wrote that the ruling had “many things that are not true”, and that he had no intention of “doing anything at all”.
In other words, he is not going to apologise, or pay the equivalent of a month’s salary.
Nazaré concluded, in the document of last August: “I will organise my life accordingly”.
Expresso writes that it “knows that Joaquim Nazaré is currently not in charge of any parish”.
Nuno Aurélio however has responded to the paper, saying: “The defence of the accused for defamation and slander called for justice, and it was done. In a State of Democratic Law it falls on those making accusations to prove what they say; only in this way can justice be assured”.
Expresso concludes that the allegations concerning Nuno Aurélio were among 17 cases of alleged sexual abuse of minors by priests that the Independent Commission referred to the Public Prosecutor.
As readers will remember, of all the cases of child sex abuse ‘outed’ in Portugal’s early investigations, almost none have resulted in prosecutions. Roughly nine priests have been suspended following allegations/ investigations, with a small number (believed to be only two) permanently removed from their duties.
Since the findings of the Independent Commission were published – suggesting at least 5,000 children and teenagers will have been sexually abused by priests and lay people active in the Church since 1950 – the Portuguese Episcopal Conference has created a new group to collect information on victims (Grupo Vita) which in its first six months of activity reports that it received another 56 witness statements and requests for help.