A former private secretary and biographer of assassinated archbishop Oscar Romero has been removed from the priesthood following allegations that he sexually abused a girl in the 1980s.
Mgr Jesus Delgado, 77, a former top official in the San Salvador diocese where Romero was murdered in 1980, was relieved “totally and definitively” of all priestly functions, along with two other priests, Fr Francisco Galvez and Fr Antonio Molina, La Prensa reported from El Salvador.
Announcing the laicisations yesterday, the Archbishop of San Salvador, José Luis Escobar said: “From now on, [the three] cannot exercise any office or priestly function according to canon 292 of the Code of Canon Law. These resolutions of the Holy See have already been communicated respectively to each of the aforementioned priests.
“We have also communicated it to the victims, to each one of the cases respectively, and today we make it known to all.”
Delgado was the country's first priest to be suspended for child sex abuse when he was removed last year from his position as San Salvador vicar general.
Gálvez was suspended as parish priest of Nuestra Señora del Rosario church in Rosario de Mora, San Salvador, also for having sexually abused children. Molina, removed from his post at Santa Cruz de Rome in Panchimalco, was denounced twice for for sexual abuse against minors more than 20 years ago.
There cannot be a civil prosecution because the time limit has passed on the cases.
Archbishop Escobar said the main concern now was for the good of the victims. The Church had to be like "a loving mother - as Pope Francis said, in favour of the small, the weakest”, he said.
“I hope there is a mature attitude on the part of all to see the goodness of this situation, because after all, the Church acts like this for the good of all,” he said.
There are no other cases pending in El Salvador, but “we are open for any denunciation and follow-up. We are in total harmony with the Pope's feeling of zero tolerance over this," said Archbishop Escobar.
Pope Francis instituted the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in March 2014 and it received its statutes in May last year.
In an address in St Peter’s Square in May Francis called sexual abuse a “tragedy” and said the Church “must severely punish the abusers”.
However, he has come under some criticism for not speaking out on the subject of abuse more strongly and not acting more forcefully against abusers and those who have covered up abuse. The most significant proposal of the commission, the creation an in-house Vatican tribunal to judge cases of bishops who are accused of failing to protect victims, has not been implemented.
Delgado has indicated he is willing to meet his victim, who he abused from the time she was nine until she was 17, to ask for forgiveness. Blessed Oscar Romero was beatified in May last year. The beatification process had been overseen by Fr Delgado, who was an aide to Romero at the time of his assassination.