A recent report by a commission investigating sexual abuse within the Portuguese Catholic Church has revealed that a minimum of 4,815 children have been victimized by members of the church, mainly priests, over the past 70 years. The head of the commission, child psychiatrist Pedro Strecht, emphasized that these findings are just the tip of the iceberg and that the victims deserve to be recognized for their bravery in speaking out about their abuse.
Most of the perpetrators were priests and the majority of the victims were male. The sexual abuse took place in various locations, including Catholic schools, churches, priests’ homes, and confessionals. The victims ranged in age from 2 to 14, with the majority being between the ages of 10 and 14.
The commission has started preparing a list of accused priests who are still working and the church has indicated that it will take appropriate measures. The commission was created in January 2022 following a report in France that revealed a similar pattern of abuse by priests and religious officials.
The commission conducted interviews with over 500 victims, analyzed historical church documents, and spoke with bishops and other clergy members. 25 of the testimonies were sent to the public prosecutors’ office for investigation, while the rest could not be legally pursued due to the statute of limitations. The commission has recommended that the law be changed to allow for legal proceedings to be initiated for historic crimes committed 30 years ago.
The commission was financed by the Catholic Church, but Strecht has emphasized that the independence of the commission was not compromised and that he would have been the first to walk out and denounce any interference by the church.