The Archbishop of Granada has removed 10 priests from their duties after they were accused of sexually abusing a young man when he was a minor.
The case was reported directly to the Vatican by the alleged victim, prompting a personal response from Pope Francis, and is now being investigated by a Granada court.
According to website Religión Digital, the young man had spent years “trying to bury the horror of all of that [abuse] in the depths of his memory.” But motivated by “the possible damage” that “other boys and girls could be suffering,” he wrote a five-page letter to the pope.
Then, on August 10, “Daniel” (not his real name) received a phone call from an unknown number while he was driving. “Who is this?” asked the man, now in his 20s. “Good afternoon son, this is Father Jorge,” the voice on the phone said, according to a number of sources with whom Religión Digital spoke. “Sorry, you must have made a mistake, I don’t know Father Jorge.” “Well, it’s Pope Francis.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the man was left dumbstruck by the call. “Are you still there?” the pope asked. “Son, calm yourself, I have read your letter a number of times. I couldn’t be more upset about it and feel huge pain on reading your story. I want to ask forgiveness in the name of all of the Church of Christ. Forgive this terrible sin and terrible crime that you have suffered.”
The pope then told Daniel that “there are already people working to resolve all of this.”
The archbishop of Granada has since published a statement defending his actions over the allegations of sexual abuse committed by a group of priests in his diocese, saying he had followed the procedure outlined by “canonic discipline.”
He explained that after learning of the facts he carried out a preliminary investigation to verify if “the accusation had any credibility” and imposed the precautionary measure of removing the accused priests from their ministerial duties. Two lay persons are also implicated in the case.
The collected information was sent to the Holy See and once the young man’s legal complaint was formulated, the archbishop “put himself at the disposition of the courts to collaborate in whatever way is necessary.”
The diocese says it has followed the principles of “Church discipline,” which in this case are “zero tolerance of abuse and those who commit it, helping the alleged victims and, once the facts are checked, the victims, if there are any, and cooperating with the authorities.”
The statement details that the archbishop “is aware that the vast majority of priests carry out their ministerial duties in exemplary fashion.” Nevertheless, it continues, “it wounds and pains the whole body of the Church immensely that scandals of this nature, whose certainty and reach will ultimately have to be determined by the courts, can occur.” A gag order has been placed on the case summary.