Massive accusations against a clergyman © Friso Gentsch
The accusations are outrageous: a Catholic priest allegedly abused 100 indigenous children and teenagers. The case makes headlines in Mexico shortly before the Pope's visit.
Now an abuse scandal is also looming in Mexico – and that shortly before the Pope's visit. As the child protection network "Foro Oaxaqueno de la Ninez" (FONI), alleges, a Catholic clergyman has committed acts against more than 100 indigenous children and young people. The priest, who had already been removed from office, had previously attracted negative attention and had been handed over to the judiciary. What is new is the scope of the acts he is alleged to have committed and their circumstances: This is how the clergyman is said to have subdued his victims with alcohol. Many of those affected did not dare to talk about the incidents, others would have had problems interpreting and classifying the events correctly because of the influence of alcohol.
Reminder of Marcial Maciel Degollado case
The case is reminiscent in its dimension of the scandal of Marcial Maciel Degollado (1920-2008). The Mexican founder of the Order of the Legionaries of Christ sexually abused minors, fathered three children with two women and committed other serious misconduct. He has become a negative symbolic figure for the church among the Mexican public. The Vatican has been accused of only half-heartedly pursuing the allegations against Maciel while he was alive. It was said that against the friend of John Paul II., who had a good connection to the then Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was not able to do much.
Abuse ie on agenda for pope's visit
This is another reason why the topic of abuse will be on the agenda during Pope Francis' visit to Mexico (12. to 18. February) on the agenda. According to local media, the head of the church from Argentina will meet with victims of abuse by Catholic clerics. Both the archbishop of San Luis Potosi, Jesus Carlos Cabrero, and the head network of the victims' organization SNAP had asked for an appropriate meeting with Francis. "It is very likely that the Pope will receive us because he has done so in his previous trips abroad," said SNAP spokesman Joaquin Aguilar. Accordingly, the meeting is to take place in the papal nunciature.
Whether the current scandal reports cast a shadow over the pope's visit remains to be seen. Especially in the state of Oaxaca, the waves are running high. Oaxaca Archbishop Jose Luis Chavez Botello is at the center of criticism. He is alleged not to have passed on to the Vatican all the information in the abuse case surrounding indigenous children, allegations say.
Archbishop of Oaxacas rejects allegations
Chavez vigorously denies the allegations; Mexican media say he suspended a priest for "defamation" who helped the alleged victims go public. Apolonio Merino, the deposed clergyman, caused a surprise: in a television interview he accused the church of double standards. An estimated 70 percent of Catholic priests in Oaxaca live in relationships and have children, Merino said. He himself also has a family of his own.
Francis urged to intervene
In light of the new abuse allegations, Catholic clergy and FONI have personally called on Pope Francis to crack down on them. Francis, he said, must work for the accused to be punished under both canon law and civil law. According to the report, former priest Alberto Athie, who advocates for victims of abuse by Mexican church workers, said he delivered a letter with related demands to the pope to the Vatican embassy in Mexico City. However, the accused clergyman is already under investigation anyway. He is in jail awaiting sentencing for two already known abuse cases.