Spanish Church abuse victim: “He didn’t stop until he saw that we were on the verge of tears”

The Salesian religious order has stood by Father López Luna, who is under investigation for abusing a 13-year-old. The following testimony is one of several making up an EL PAÍS series exposing decades of offenses by the clergy

Joaquín Gil
Abuse victim Monolo (pseudonym).
Abuse victim Monolo (pseudonym).

The Salesian religious order still has a priest within its ranks who is under investigation for abusing a 13-year-old child in 2013. As confirmed by EL PAÍS, Father Francisco Javier López Luna maintains an office at the National Center for Youth Pastoral Care on Calle Alcalá, in Madrid.

“López Luna this year took charge of the Salesian community, and he is a member of the Youth Pastoral Care, a body that brings together the various groups within the order,” says one of its members.

The prosecution is seeking more than four years behind bars for López Luna, who is accused of a crime against the sexual integrity of a minor as well as degrading treatment.

During the school year 2012-2013, Manolo – a pseudonym – was studying his second year of high school at the Salesian School in Cádiz. He was then 13 and going three times a week to the principal’s office. The principal at the time was Francisco Javier López Luna. “When he touched me, he would bite his lip; he enjoyed it,” Manolo says, speaking out for the first time after two years in therapy.

It was painful. He hit me hard. He was taking his rage out on me

Abuse victim Manolo

Lured by the promise of sweets and a chance to play on the priest’s tablet, Manolo entered the lair of López Luna, where the latter would begin ranting on a number of topics, working himself up into such a state that he once pulled out some of Manolo’s pubic hair. “He warned me that if I said anything, he would have me suspended and I would be sent to a boarding school,” says Manolo.

Fearful of reprisals, Manolo kept quiet for two years. “What he did to me was not normal, but I thought it would be better to keep my mouth shut,” he says.

Manolo was not the only student to be subjected to López Luna’s perverse attentions. According to the victim, he pulled pubic hair from 10 to 15 other pupils. And he accompanied this alleged reprimand with instructive blows. “He threw us on the ground and hit us. And he didn’t stop until he saw that we were on the verge of tears,” says Manolo, adding that he was held back that year on account of the abuse.

According to Manolo, the priest touched his genitals once and showered him with blows on two or three occasions, once after an argument about soccer. “It was painful. He hit me hard. He was taking his rage out on me. He left me with bruises on my arms and ribs. I told my mother that I had fallen while playing soccer. She wasn’t aware of what was happening,” says Manolo, who is now 19.

Manolo has spent two years in therapy

The priest allegedly combined verbal abuse with physical violence. “He called me fat and also said I was a dickhead,” says Manolo. “I had nightmares… I ended up wetting the bed. He knew each child’s individual weakness.”

López Luna claims that Manolo is lying, that his account is driven by his mother and that there is no solid evidence against him. “Priests don’t enjoy the privilege of being presumed innocent,” he complains.

Though López Luna told EL PAÍS that he had no dealings with the victim during the 2012-2013 school year, he later admitted to having “helped” Manolo deal with teasing from fellow students.

Despite his office in the Salesian building in Madrid, López Luna claims that all he does for the community is grocery shopping in Mercadona to feed a group of 11 priests. And when he is asked about his earlier positions as a priest, he politely changes the subject, pointing out that the Church is the only institution with a protocol to adhere to in the event of abuse.

But prosecutors in Cádiz are demanding a four-year prison term for him, plus five years of probation and €9,000 in damages for his victim. “The priest gripped the child at the level of his underwear, he pulled the underwear… to the point of tearing at the pubic hair,” say the prosecuting authorities.

What he did was not normal, but I thought it would be better to keep my mouth shut

Abuse victim Monolo

In their written accusation, the prosecutors note that the priest also kicked the boy in the ribs and the legs, as well as punching his head; and that these punishments led Manolo to suffer an adjustment disorder and a profound sense of guilt.

Prosecutors have no doubt that the priest will end up in court. López Luna was already tried in 2016 for abusing over a dozen children at the Salesian School in Cádiz. The court acquitted him after deciding that there was no sexual intent in his actions, and ordered the priest to pay a fine of €500 to the 12 minors.

It was however considered proven at the time that López Luna played ‘goldfish’ with the 12 students – meaning that he hit them in the genital area. He also tore at their pubic hair and subjected them to something known as ‘the bear’s hug’ – lifting someone up by the arms to suddenly let them fall.

López Luna’s lawyer, Manuel Montaño, believes that the acquittal, ratified in 2017 by the Supreme Court, will help keep him out of jail this time round again.

English version by Heather Galloway.

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