Child psychiatrist Pedro Strecht, leading the commission

Portugal’s church abuse panel gathers over 200 testimonies in one month

A commission investigating child sexual abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church has been contacted by more than 200 alleged victims since being launched last month.

Reuters reports that the abuse allegations “have come from people born between 1933 and 2006, from various backgrounds, from every region of the country and also from Portuguese nationals living abroad”.

A statement by the commission yesterday said that many of the 214 people who have shared their testimonies ‘mentioned other children who might have been abused by the same person’.

“The allegations reveal suffering… which, in some cases, has been hidden for decades… For many, this is the first time they are breaking their silence,” said the commission.

Work on this horrific task of peeling back layers of denial began early in the New Year following revelations from France that around 3,000 priests and religious officials sexually abused more than 200,000 children in the last 70 years.

It also followed pressure from prominent Portuguese Catholics to lift the veil of silence that has surrounded the issue. 

The six-person commission is primarily funded by the Roman Catholic Church although its head, child psychiatrist Pedro Strecht, has said he will be the first to walk out if the Church tries to intervene in the process.

The commission, which has its own website and phone line, relies on alleged victims coming forwards voluntarily until July 31 this year, but also has access to historic files from dioceses. 

The team is hoping to present its report by the end of the year.