The judge overseeing a pedophilia case involving a number of priests in Granada is to only continue investigating the alleged ringleader of the group, Father Roman (R. M. V. C.), after ruling that the statute of limitations on the crimes of which the other 11 official targets are suspected has now expired.
The judge told the Andalusia regional High Court on Monday in a statement that the move was not based on any judicial whim or judgment but his compulsory obligation.
The 11 other suspects – nine clergymen and two laypeople – under investigation for charges of sexual abuse, indecent exposure and cover-up face sentences of less than three years in prison. From the time the alleged victim came of age – in January 2008 – to the opening of judicial proceedings in November 2014, “more than the three years stipulated in the law as the statute of limitations on these said crimes has passed,” Judge Antonio Moreno explained.
At the same time the facts relating to the other suspect, R. M. V. C., could constitute prolonged sexual abuse, a charge that carries a prison sentence of between four and 10 years – a period that has not yet passed.
The case came to light after the main victim, who is now 24, wrote to Pope Francis last year detailing the abuse he had allegedly suffered at the hands of the priests, and the pontiff personally phoned him to apologize in the name of the Catholic Church and to announce an internal investigation.
The man filed a complaint with the public prosecutor in October and a second victim who was named in the letter came forward soon afterwards to confirm the allegations.
The expiry of the statute of limitations on the majority of the crimes under investigation had also been anticipated by the prosecutor in the case, Francisco Hernández, who is only maintaining the sexual abuse charges against R. M. V. C.