03 April 2023, The Tablet

Portuguese bishops under fire for handling of abuse cases

The independent commission which studied clerical abuse in Portugal gave dioceses the names of priests accused of abuse.

Portuguese bishops under fire for handling of abuse cases

The Bishop of Oporto, Manuel Linda, is among the bishops criticised for their handling of abuse allegations against priests.
NurPhoto SRL/Alamy

The bishops of Lisbon and Oporto, in Portugal, have been criticised for their handling of recent allegations of abuse.

In Lisbon’s case, criticism was centred on the temporary removal from ministry of Fr Mário Rui Pedras, who is very influential among conservative Catholics in the capital, and is one of four priests whose names were on a list compiled by the independent commission which studied clerical abuse in the Portuguese Church.

Fr Mário Rui made his case public with a statement that called into question the validity of the commission’s work, saying that he was being removed based on an anonymous and baseless complaint, and vowing to do all he can to unmask his accuser.

Many conservative voices in the Lisbon Patriarchate, including priests, have come out in his defence and harshly criticised the Patriarch and local hierarchy for abandoning the priest.

They have gone so far as to suggest that the whole case is politically motivated, since Fr Mário Rui is close to far-right leader André Ventura, and his parish has become a focal point for traditionalists.

The problem in Oporto, meanwhile, is the opposite. Bishop Manuel Linda received a list with seven names of active priests. After asking for further information, he provisionally removed three from ministry while leaving the other four in place.

When a group of hundreds of Catholics organised themselves and wrote him a letter, demanding he take swifter action, he received their representatives in an audience and admitted that he was dealing with the cases himself, with no assistance, and had not yet removed the other four priests because he had not had the chance to speak to them.

He asked the group for a few more days but, to their surprise, a week later boarded an aeroplane to Rome and delivered the information he had on all seven priests directly to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The four priests, whose files will now be studied by the Vatican, continue in office, in apparent breach of current rules. Frustrated with the handling of the situation, the group in Oporto went public with its criticism of Manuel Linda, complaining of his “inability to make decisions and his lack of sense of urgency, and clarity”.

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