The Granada priests under court investigation for pedophilia worked much like a sect, with an elected leader and brainwashing sessions for their victims, sources familiar with the case have said.
The inquiry was triggered by a letter that a victim sent Pope Francis, who personally phoned the young man and ordered an internal investigation into the allegations.
State investigators are focusing on a parish located near the Andalusian city’s Zaidín neighborhood. This is where the priests, who were all friends, attracted minors to act as their assistants during mass and imbue them with religious ideas. Some of the suspects worked at other churches in the capital and outlying municipalities.
Led by one of their own, the priests also held secret meetings with the youngsters to talk openly about sex and argue that it was not a sin to engage in sexual relations with them, the same sources said. The victims were routinely subjected to brutal sexual practices.
The 10 priests and two laypeople under scrutiny also maintained sexual relations with one another at gatherings that took place several times a week. Some of the suspects are thought to have covered up for the pedophiles but refrained from taking part in the practices themselves.
The religion news website Religión Digital reported on Wednesday that the group of ultraconservative priests is known in Granada as Los Romanones, a reference to their alleged leader’s surname.
While victims were found at the parish, the sexual acts took place inside luxury apartments and a house owned by the group in the city of Granada and in the towns of Salobreña and Pinos Puente.
It was one of the victims who first informed Pope Francis about the case, and later filed a formal complaint with the Andalusian Attorney’s Office, triggering the court investigation.
The young man, who is now 24 and works as a teacher, suffered sexual abuse between the ages of 13 and 17.
The young man, who is now 24 and works as a teacher, suffered sexual abuse between the ages of 13 and 17
In his letter, this man suggests that at least one other minor may have been a victim of sexual abuse like himself, and he also mentions a young woman who the priests may have used as an intermediary. He himself was abused by three priests and a layperson, he states.
His decision to come forward with his story was triggered by the Vatican’s announcement in April that there would be zero tolerance for pedophilia in the Catholic Church.
At first he turned to the Archdiocese of Granada, but when no action was taken he decided to write directly to the pope, who personally informed him that he had ordered the archdiocese to open an investigation. The latter did nothing more than remove three of the 10 suspects from their religious duties.
Weeks later, Pope Francis phoned the victim again and ordered Francisco Javier Martínez, the Archbishop of Granada, to fly to Rome this Sunday to offer explanations on the matter.