Documentary: Children Sex Abuse in Churches

catholic church sex abuse

The cases of sexual abuse by clergy of the Catholic Church refers to a number of convictions, lawsuits and investigations into cases and crimes of child sexual abuse committed by priests and members of the Catholic clergy against minors , ranging from 3 years, and involve, in most cases, children between 11 and 14 years of age.

These crimes may include anal sex and oral penetration. The cases have been documented and reported to the civil authorities of several countries, resulting in the persecution of pedophiles and civil suits against the dioceses of the Catholic Church. Many of the cases come to light several decades after the events. The demands before the authorities have also been made against the Catholic hierarchy, which in many cases hinders the investigations, besides not reporting and in fact covering up the pedophile priests, moving them from the parishes to avoid their arrest and trial.

Child Sex Abuse in Churches

Since the second half of the twentieth century, the number of complaints of child sexual abuse in all its varieties by Catholic religious has increased. In recent years, the cases of Ireland, the United States, and Germany have gained relevance, where local authorities have found guilty Catholic priests of hundreds of pedophilia allegations. 3 The scandal has reached congregations like the Legion of Christ ; 4 caused the resignation of the Irish bishops of Cloyne, John Magee, 5 and of the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, in James Moriarty (bishop), 6 who acknowledged having been negligent before the reports of pedophilia by priests in their dioceses; and has taken several Catholic priests to jail. In April 2010, Roger Joseph Vangheluwe resigned as bishop of Bruges for sexually abusing a young man when he was a priest and at the beginning of his episcopacy. 7 Organizations of victims of pedophilia have pointed out that popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have some degree of responsibility for having covered up abuses, or omitted the denunciations.

Sexual Abuse in Churches

The Holy See, by the voice of Benedict XVI, has condemned pedophilia and recognized the cases that have led to the scandal for this cause in the last years of the first decade of the 21st century. Through a communiqué addressed to Catholics in Ireland , the highest Catholic leader has acknowledged the “insufficient” performance of the Holy See in cases of pedophilia denounced and acknowledged that these were criminal acts that damaged the victims and damaged the image of the Church in the world; acts for which the priests “must respond,” said the Pope, “before God and the courts duly constituted.” 9

Pope Benedict XVI has publicly acknowledged the cases of pedophilia committed by priests, has apologized to the victims and argued that the guilty must answer before the courts.

At the end of the 1990s, denunciations against Catholic priests and religious began to come to light, mainly in the United States and Australia, accused of sexual abuse of minors, committed during the second half of the last century. More than a hundred members of the Australian Catholic Church have been convicted of sexually abusing a thousand victims, according to the Broken Rites organization. 10

Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly condemned these practices, underlining that “priesthood and pedophilia are incompatible.” 11

According to studies by Philip Jenkins , professor of History and Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania , 12 99.8% of Catholic priests have never been involved in this type of criminal behavior 13 and there is no evidence that Pedophilia is more common among Catholic clergy than among Protestant ministers, Jewish leaders, doctors or members of any other institution in which adults occupy positions of authority over children . 13

In addition, the value of statistics is relative in this case, since the statistical method can only be based on declared cases. However, the phenomenon of abuse tends to be silenced due to the guilt character it has for the one who commits it, and the shameful character it has for the one who suffers it. Therefore Jenkins’ studies, while they have to be taken into account, are necessarily relative. Other studies also see little reason to conclude that sexual abuse is primarily a Catholic issue, but rather a major social problem where all the aggressors have in common is that most of them have pre-existing ties with their victims: members of the family or others from the victim’s circle of trust. 14

In addition, a report by the BBC of 2004, declares that in the United States 4% of the Catholic clergy of that country has been involved in sex with minors, approximate number of 4,000 priests over the past 50 years 15 although only between 5% and 10% of victims report the case, according to Barbara Blaine, president of the US Network of Survivors of Prisoners Abused (SNAP).

Most of the cases were presented in priestly seminars, schools, and orphanages where children and adolescents were under the care of the clergy. The publication of numerous scandals created a strong criticism towards the hierarchy of the Church, especially the attitude that some bishops and religious superiors assumed in the face of the evidence of the fact, limited to private attention calls and the transfer of the offender to other places. While there was a systematic indifference towards the victims, which led to the conclusion that the superiors of the offenders were covering up the crime.

Cases of sexual abuse of minors were always presented where children and adolescents were in contact with religious, in the same way, that happens in other types of organizations that are responsible for their care or that are in frequent contact with the children. Same. The trust that the ministers of the Church generate among the laity facilitated in most of the occasions the act of the abuser in parishes, seminaries, orphanages, hospitals and social work organizations. In many cases, the victim did not receive immediate attention even from his family due to the respect he had for the victim or due to fear and ignorance.

Shocking Video : Priest Abusing Altar boy ( Sign-in required)


The Code of Canon Law, the basis of ecclesiastical law, provides penalties for crimes that have to do with sexual abuse, as expressed in various canons. According to Canon 1395, a cleric who commits a sexual offense with a minor, whether through violence or threats, must be punished with fair penalties that may include expulsion from the clerical state. 34 Evidence of this crime on the part of religious can be traced before the twentieth century due to the existence of ecclesiastical documents that seek to prevent it, such as the apostolic constitution Sacramentum Poenitentiae of 1741. However, the development of the media, especially after the Second World War, would highlight the case not only within the Catholic Church but of all those institutions and organizations where adults have direct contact with minors. With the advent of secularization, especially those nations with a strong Catholic tradition, the cases acquired great relevance for certain anti-Catholic sectors.

First reported cases

The first cases publicly denounced were presented for the first time in the United States and Ireland. The John Jay report found accusations against 4392 American priests in 50 years, representing 4% of the clergy of that country. 35 Evidence soon attracted the attention of international public opinion because it involved underage victims, numerous imbecu- lar children and mostly males. 36 The first cases occurred during the 1990s, but their extensive report in the media soon motivated former victims to denounce their aggressors and whose abuse had occurred since years as early as 1940, 37

In the State of Delaware, one of the first cases presented and won is that of Corvette Captain Kenneth J. Whitwell, who filed a sexual abuse claim against Archmere Academy, Inc., Father Edward Joseph Smith, O. Praem and the Catholic Archdiocese of Wilmington. In that case, Norbertine priest Edward Joseph Smith, O. Praem did not go to prison, but The Norbertine Fathers of Delaware, Inc. was forced to pay USD 41,000,000 [2] because of the abuse committed by the Catholic priest Edward Joseph Smith, O. Praem for 33 consecutive months. Said compensation includes $ 6 million in compensatory damages and $ 35 million in punitive damages.

The denunciations increased immediately not only in countries of Catholic tradition like Ireland, but in other nations such as the United Kingdom, Canada and, above all, in the United States., Where they received wide dissemination in the social media, which collected statements from the victims. The reports focused especially on how the children were abused and later silenced using moral, psychological and even violent constraints, and in the silence that some Church hierarchs held for years, the fact that constitutes, provided that the crime has been real, a case of criminal cover-up. Many of the victims formed associations to strengthen their judicial and compensation claims against aggressors and church institutions and in many cases received the support of political parties and other social sectors.

The complaints were not focused only within the sphere of sexual abuse but also included physical and moral violence, as was the case in Ireland of the Sisters of Mercy with the Asylums of the Magdalenas, a case that was taken to the cinema with the title The Magdalene sisters ( 2002 ) by Peter Mullan. The film, made with testimonies of the victims, many of them already elderly, recounts the drama of girls who were interned by their families because of unwanted pregnancies and where they were subjected to physical punishment and physical and moral violence.

Cases of sexual abuse against minors committed by Catholic religious

Cases of sexual abuse against minors committed by Catholic


The Argentine Church has had between 2004 and 2009 at least four priests condemned for child abuse.

The priest Luis Sierra (39) was sentenced in November 2004 to eight years in prison for sexually abusing three altar boys who attended as students a religious school in Claypole, where he taught.

In November 2007, Justice sentenced priest Mario Napoleón Sasso to 17 years in prison because he considered that he had sexually abused a group of girls between 11 and 14 years of age who were attending the community soup kitchen that was under his charge in the town of Pilar.

In June 2009 he was sentenced Father Julio Cesar Grassi , founder of the Foundation Happy the Children , to 15 years in prison for sexual abuse and corruption of minors , aggravated 42 43 but was not arrested. Although the sentence was confirmed in September 2010 by the Court of Cassation, he continued to be free-living in the Foundation and giving mass until December 2013 that he was imprisoned and serving a sentence in ward 6 of Prison Unit No. 41 of Campana , province of Buenos Aires waiting for the possible incorporation to be evaluated plus testimonies to the cause that could increase the penalty. When he is imprisoned the bishopric decides to initiate a canonical trial.


In October 2002, after journalistic accusations about sexual abuse of children and young people that would have spread for more than ten years, the archbishop emeritus of La Serena, Francisco Jose Cox, renounced all pastoral activity. 48 On October 31, 2002, the archbishop of Santiago, Francisco Javier Errazuriz, announced the departure of the religious for “improper conduct” and his confinement in a monastery in Germany. 49 On November 5, 2002, the Permanent Committee of the Episcopal Conference of Chile apologized to all the injured persons. 50

In June 2003, José Andrés Aguirre Ovalle, known as the “cure Tato” was convicted in the first instance to twelve years in prison as the author of rape, indecent assault repeated and rape against nine minors between 1998 and 2002. 51 52 However, in mid-November 2012, his application for a sentence reduction was accepted, 53 so he was released on the 26th of that month, after serving just over nine years in prison. 54

In January 2010, an investigation conducted by the Public Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that the then Melipilla church priest, Ricardo Alberto Muñoz Quintero, sexually and repeatedly exploited five teenagers, in addition to sexually abusing one of his two daughters when he practiced in Curacaví. Also, Muñoz is accused of producing pornographic material for children, obtained from the same illicit acts. 55

In February 2011, after an investigation by the Holy See, the pastor of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Fernando Karadima, was found guilty of sexual abuse with violence against minors, for which he was sentenced to a life of penance and prayer. in absolute seclusion. 56

In April 2011, the Episcopal Conference of Chile presented a Protocol against complaints against clerics for abuses of minors and announced the formation of a Council that will be responsible for directing policies for the prevention of sexual abuse and offering assistance to victims.


In 2010, the cleric Luis Enrique Duque Valencia was captured and sentenced to 18 years and four months for raping two children aged seven and nine in Lebanon (Tolima). The cleric had fled justice for almost three years. 58 59 60 In July of that same year captured a priest named William de Jesús Pérez Mazo, who raped at least three minors east of Cali. 61In a journalistic program in the country, a report was published of a priest who was a representative of a foundation for children, accused of sexual abuse by a teacher of the foundation, to several minors. Despite the complaints, he was never prosecuted, but the Colombian Family Welfare Institute prevented him from continuing with the foundation. In this same report a priest, vice chancellor of a school in the south of Bogotá has presented about whom the program had a video in which he sexually abused a minor by practicing oral sex. The video was recorded by school students who handed it to a member of the national police. However, despite these complaints the priest was only transferred to another goddess. 62The case of this priest who is exposed is just one more of several cases that have been presented in Colombia. 63 64 65 Another of the most notorious cases in Colombia, and as recorded at the end of the credits of the film Spotlight , the case was captured in Medellin for sex with under 13 priest, Father Victor Manuel Torres González, 40, a native of Santa Rosa de Viterbo, Boyacá, for events that occurred on August 12, 2013, where the victim was a minor 13 years old.


In the 1990s, the Guatemalan priest Juan Francisco Aragón Larrazabal, who was a parish priest at the Church of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Guayaquil, was imprisoned for the rape of three minors. On December 23, 1991, he was killed with 19 stab wounds by prisoner William Mantuano. 67

The Father Luis Fernando Intriago Páez who was pastor at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church in Guayaquil between 1996 and 2013, when he was wit fried brains his duties as a priest after he was accused of sexual abuse and torture of at least ten minors through a practice not recognized by the Catholic Church called the “Dynamic of Sin”, so in 2013 Archbishop Antonio Arregui called him a manipulator and was suspended from his priestly activities. 68 69 Intriago met in Lima ‘s founderMovement of Christian Life, Luis Fernando Figari, who is also accused of sexual abuse of minors in Peru, with which he formed a friendship and through which Intriago brought the Catholic group to Ecuador, which he led and related to thousands of young boys. 68 However, this scandal was nothing new for Father Intriago, since 2003 he was repeatedly admonished non-formally by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith due to his active homosexual behavior. 68The reprimands were again present in 2009 because of the scandal that some of the faithful caused their continuous nocturnal encounters with an underage youth. 68 The case jumped to the public arena on May 8, 2018, after the GK City media conducted an eight-month investigation and made it public, evidence that the State Attorney’s Office and the Archdiocese of Guayaquil did nothing to expedite the process and investigation, despite the fact that Intriago confessed to having had a morbid and reprehensible attitude. 70 68

The Father Pedro Vicente Garcia García, who was pastor of José Obrero Church in Garay neighborhood, downtown Guayaquil, was accused in 2013 of raping five girls attending catechism classes, among whom was a girl of 11 years who was part of the choir of the church. 71 72 Garcia fled and was declared the most wanted sex offenders, until finally was captured in August 2017 in Quito and convicted in 2018, after 5 years of the event, in addition, it is known that at least raped 10 children, but the families have not wanted to denounce so as not to expose the minors. 72 73


An investigation carried out in 1995 by the professor of the University of Salamanca Félix López Sánchez and published by the Ministry of Social Affairs of Spain, determined that 4,17% of the abuses to minors were carried out by religious. 74

United States

One of the countries where there has been greater international coverage of these cases has been the United States, where some dioceses have had to pay large sums in compensation to the victims. According to a study by the National Review Board, a total of 4392 priests were accused of sexual abuse of 10,667 minors between 1950 and 2002. Of that total, approximately 6700 cases presented sufficient evidence; another 3300 were not investigated because the priests had already died and another 1,000 did not present reliable evidence to justify an investigation, according to a statement released by the Diocese of Yakima, in the state of Washington. “Of more than 5,000 priests who served in the Los Angeles Archdiocese between 1930 and 2003, 113 were accused of abuse, according to the Official Report of the People of God of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, published in February 2004. Of the total number of priests 43 accused have already died, 54 are no longer priests and 16 were in the ministry. From the last group, in 12 cases there was not enough evidence to declare abuse and only four have been suspended and face trials. ”

One of the reports indicated that the costs related to these problems exceeded $ 570 million in legal expenses, compensation, therapy for victims and treatment for offenders. That figure does not include the $ 85 million paid by the Archdiocese of Boston to settle some of the lawsuits filed by the victims. The Archdiocese of Boston ( Massachusetts ), the fourth largest US Catholic diocese and where the avalanche of scandals began, announced in late May of 2005 the closure of 65 of the 357 parishes in his jurisdiction.

Faced with the flood of condemnations, many of which identify the Catholic Church, the Catholic League of the United States argues that the statistics of sexual abuse in it are similar to those that exist in other institutions: for example, in public schools from that country, it is estimated that 5% of all teachers are responsible for sexually abusing 15% of the total number of students. 75 In an official survey conducted in 2003, it was revealed that 6.7% of students in the United States had suffered sexual misconduct by their teacher, which even reached the point of physical contact. 76 Another report from the United States Department of Education published in 2004found that between 3.5% and 5.03% of students are subject to sexual misconduct by their educators at some time during their student career. It was discovered that teachers, coaches, and substitute teachers were the ones who incurred the most crime. 77

A study conducted by researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, which examined the causes and context of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the US Catholic Church, concluded that there was not a single cause or predictor of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. The report added that situational factors and the opportunity to abuse played an important role in the initiation and continuation of abusive acts. The study was conducted in five years and was published in 2011. The increase in the frequency of abuse in the 1960s and 1970s was consistent with patterns of deviance in society during that time. Social influences were added to the vulnerabilities of individual priests whose preparation for a life of celibacy was insufficient at that time. Neither celibacy nor homosexuality they were the causes of the abuses. 78

Coat of arms of Cardinal Bernard Law

In 1985, sexual abuse by priests became a national issue for the first time in the United States when the parish priest of Louisiana, Gilbert Gauthe, was found guilty of eleven cases of sexual abuse of minors.

In 1993, the first case of a legal condemnation against the diocese of Dallas in the matter of abuse of children by the priest Rudolph Kos occurred. The diocese is forced to pay more than 31 million dollars to the victims of the parish priest.

In early 2002, the Boston Globe newspaper published a series of reports unraveling the sexual abuse committed by five priests of that state, launching into the public light the issue of sexual abuse of the Church to minors. In December of that same year, Cardinal Bernard Law in charge of the Diocese of Boston resigns.

In February 2004, an investigation commissioned by the Church revealed that more than 4000 priests in the United States have been involved in accusations of sexual abuse in the last 50 years involving more than 10,000 children, most of them children. 42
On November 17, 2005, Corvette Captain Kenneth J. Whitwell filed a sexual abuse complaint against Archmere Academy, Inc., Father Edward Joseph Smith, O. Praem and the Catholic Archdiocese of Wilmington. In that case, the priest Norbertine Edward Joseph Smith, O. Praem was not imprisoned, but a court decision indicated payment of USD 41,000,000 because of the abuse committed by the Catholic priest Edward Joseph Smith, O.Praem for 33 consecutive months.

On March 25, 2010, the American newspaper The New York Times published a collection of documents that allegedly show that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger did not respond to more than 200 complaints of sexual abuse against Lawrence Murphy, who worked at a Catholic school for deaf children in Wisconsin between 1950 and 1974. The Church rejected the complaint.

Some of Father Murphy’s victims reported these abuses to the civil authorities, who opened an investigation at that time; however, that investigation was closed. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith she was only informed about the matter twenty years later. Considering the fact that Father Murphy was elderly and in poor health, living in retirement and that for over twenty years there had been no accusations of further abuse, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith suggested that the Archbishop of Milwaukee will study how to deal with the situation, for example, by restricting Father Murphy’s public ministry and asking him to take full responsibility for the gravity of his actions. Father Murphy died approximately four months later, without further incident.

On April 9, 2010, the Associated Press news agency published a letter in which it is stated that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger refused to remove from the priesthood the American priest Stephen Kiesle, accused of pedophilia. The Vatican says that “it is not strange that there are isolated documents with the signature of Cardinal (Joseph) Ratzinger” and that the letter is taken out of context.


The Irish priest Brendan Smyth, accused of committing crimes of abuse to minors in his country.

In October 2005, an investigation by the Irish Government into a Diocese of Wexford County revealed more than one hundred cases of sexual abuse of minors by members of the Catholic Church. The Ferns report had more than 271 pages long in which allegations were made against 21 priests who had been working in the diocese between 1966 and 2002. 42

On May 20, 2009, the Investigative Commission for Child Abuse in Ireland (commonly known as the “Ryan Commission”) was published. After almost ten years of research, it gathers more than 2,000 testimonies that report physical and sexual abuse by responsible for boarding schools controlled by Catholic religious orders. This is one of the largest cases of recognition of sexual abuse of the Catholic Church in an investigation that covers more than 35,000 children in a period of 86 years (from 1914 to 2000). The data of schools, reformatories, and orphanages in this period, collect 253 accusations of sexual abuse to boys and 128 to girls. 82 Not all are attributed to priests, religious or religious; they are cases of diverse nature and seriousness, rarely referred to impubers.

In December 2009 another report was published by the research commission of the Archdiocese of Dublin which is commonly known as the “Murphy Report.” The commission identified 320 people abused from 1974 to 2004; and another 120 from 2004 to 2009.

Before the results of the investigations, in December 2009 four bishops resigned, and the entire hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Ireland is accountable to the pope. 42 The bishops who are resigning are Donal Murray (Bishop of Limerick), 85 James Moriarty (Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin), 86 Raymond Field (titular Bishop of “Árd Mór”), Eamonn Walsh (titular Bishop of “Elmhama.” 87

On March 16, 2010, it became public that the head of the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, was present at meetings in 1975 in which abused children signed oaths of silence on complaints against the pedophile priest Brendan Smyth. 42 The Bishops’ Conference of Ireland, as the Osservatore Romano and Vatican Radio later made public, clarified that Father Brady participated in that investigation, attending the interview of two victims, and transmitted the results to his superiors. 88

On March 19, 2010, Benedict XVI wrote a letter to Catholics in Ireland. 89 It is perhaps the most extensive and important document in which the Pope addresses this issue. 90 As announced in that letter, in May 2010 he appointed five archbishops and four religious to carry out an inspection. 91 In March 2012, a summary of the results of the visit was presented. 92 93

On April 22, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of James Moriarty, bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, in Ireland, who was auxiliary bishop in Dublin between 1991 and 2002. Moriarty affirmed that he resigned because “he should have challenged the predominant culture”, although he was not directly accused in the Murphy Report.


Photograph of Marcial Maciel at the end of 2004 in Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, Italy.

Cases of sexual abuse against minors by Catholic priests in Mexico have been reported for decades, although few have been confirmed. In 2002, the Church was accused of covering cases of abuse and even paying money to buy the silence of the victims. 42

In this country, the case of Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, becomes particularly important. Maciel died in 2008, amid accusations of sexual abuse against several seminarians and children and the victims’ demand to ask for forgiveness. 95 One of Maciel’s accusers was the former rector of the Anahuac University, Juan Manuel Fernandez Amenabar, whose case was made public by Alberto Athié Gallo. 96 In 1997, nine ex-legionaries sent a public letter to John Paul II where they reported sexual abuse by Maciel. 97The accusations against Maciel were denied for years by the Legion of Christ, which finally publicly acknowledged the crimes committed by its founder. Cardinal Ratzinger also initiated proceedings against Marcial Maciel on charges of pedophilia. In 2006, when Ratzinger was already pope, he announced the closing of the investigation into Maciel due to his advanced age and broken health, 98 ordering him to retire from the public priesthood to consecrate himself to a life of “prayer and penance.”

In 2010, the Survivors Network for Sexual Abuse by Priests (SNAP) released a list of 65 priests accused in the United States of sexual abuse. These priests are in several dioceses of Mexico, some of them active. 99 SNAP has also filed accusations against Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop of Mexico, whom they accuse of having colluded with Roger Mahony to protect several of these priests, but particularly in the case of Nicolás Aguilar Rivera, prosecuted in Tehuacán ( Puebla)) for sexual abuse against at least sixty children. 100 The complaints against Rivera Carrera have reached the US courts, the first of which was dismissed because the court considered that the matter of the lawsuit was outside its jurisdiction. The fourth lawsuit against the Mexican prelate was filed by SNAP before a US federal court in Los Angeles ( California ). 101 The act was minimized by the First Archdiocese of Mexico, which called the accusation “slanderous,” “media deception” and “opportunistic.”

Nicolás Aguilar Rivera who was denounced by four children in 1997, in Tehuacán, Puebla. 103 There are records that the pedophile priest was transferred by the archdiocese presided over by Norberto Rivera to the United States, to this day Aguilar continues to be a fugitive, he is suspected of around 60 violations against children in Puebla, 104 and 26 more violations committed in Los Angeles, California. 105 Aguilar Rivera had an activity period as pederast spanning 1986 to 1997, as reported victims under the knowledge of Norberto Rivera.

In 2012, Manuel Ramírez García priest from San Pedro, Nuevo León, was accused by 13 children of sexually abusing them. 107 children were students at grade 5 in the “Colegio de Guadalupe,” according to its statements the priest touched


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