Since the Report of the independent Commission created by the Portuguese Episcopal Conference (CEP) was known, many times I have defended the Portuguese Church - and it should be understood clearly, that I am referring to its hierarchy -, in posts, comments, texts that completely devastated this institution, of which I am a part.
I, like many other practicing Catholics involved in activities and community life, feel saddened, demotivated, hurt, singled out by so many as part of something we never did, which we did not cover up, which we consider miserably bad.
But even so, the fact that the said Commission was created was an act of hope, that something could change and justice and true help would be guaranteed to those who suffered. And there I was, defending those who have greater responsibilities, always a believer.
I therefore waited with hope for the 3rd of March, the date on which the meeting of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference (CEP) was scheduled and from which a position of the bishops would emerge on the Report of the independent Commission, created by this same body, to know the situation in Portugal.
That same morning, Pope Francis publish your monthly video, whose theme, certainly not innocently, was precisely this. He said: “In the face of abuses, especially those committed by members of the Church, it is not enough to ask for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness is necessary, but it is not enough”.
I was waiting – and I emphasize the word, because of the connection it has to hope, to the one that moved me that morning – a determined reaction, a gesture that would restore to us the capacity to believe that the structure of the Church can change and can be willing not to close down. in a self-protective dome of its hierarchy. I expected. I waited.
And from there, what came out? One more commission, psychological/psychiatric support for the victims, a formal apology and the construction of a memorial: these were the main proposals that came out of the CEP meeting.
I was first stunned, then shattered. Regarding the priests identified as aggressors, nothing is done and everything is referred to the dioceses, the same ones that, over the years, did not act, knowing what was happening.
So weren't all the bishops in the CEP and, on that very day, shouldn't they have taken this decision together? I ask again: weren't all the bishops there?
They cannot suspend anyone, because that is a decision for each one and, they say (even today, when I write this article, through the voice of the cardinal-patriarch of Lisbon, Manuel Clemente) that nothing can be done with a mere list of names , without "proven facts, subject to contradictory" and that "any person who is accused must know what he is accused of".
Daniel Sampaio, psychiatrist and member of the Independent Commission, soon revealed his disappointment, as he expected a "much clearer" response from the Church, regretting that the suspect priests were not removed preventively.
And we all heard Pedro Strecht, president of the Commission, say that the facts were precisely identified in each diocese, when the historical survey of the situation was carried out.
Anyone who is suspected has all the rights. And the victims? And what about priests who are not pedophiles, but who are treated as if they were, under cover of this attitude? And those who, like me, trusted that, being members of a large family of believers, we would truly be closer to the House of God? What rights are denied us by those who are afraid to see, to correct, to make courageous decisions, with the courage that Jesus Christ had when he entered the temple and expelled the moneylenders (John 2, 13-22), who made him impure?
Do you really expect abusers to seek psychological/psychiatric support in the Church again? Seriously???? And that a formal apology puts an end to nightmares, insecurities, fears, inability to deal with so many situations?????? And that a memorial does justice to us all??????
Ah, and since there is so much desire to protect pedophiles (who are sick, I know and who deserve medical treatment and follow-up), what "a concrete response to their pain and suffering", as Pope Francis says, will be guaranteed to them, with so much desire to prove facts and to guarantee contradictory????? Whats the way??????
The postures, the answers, the solutions were hesitant and insufficient. They were sad and poorly explained. But, above all, they were disrespectful towards the victims, in the first instance, and towards all those who truly felt their pain! And discrediting, massively discrediting an institution that, says the Holy Father, “must be an example to help solve them [abuses], making them known in society and in families”, being its obligation “to offer safe spaces” listening and monitoring.
And justice be done to D. José Ornelas and a few other bishops who, I fear, are very alone in their will to act and fight the clericalism that is a major feature of this whole reaction and that increasingly seems to correspond to an identity matrix of the institution, an institution that, from the outside, has always placed itself in the position of being a moral stronghold for all issues.
The truth is that hope, the one I spoke of at the beginning, has disappeared.
There is no one who, now, believes that any decision will be taken on this issue, because there was no willingness to change. I don't have that feeling.
I needed your courage, gentlemen. Bishops, was proportionate to my capacity, in recent times, to have believed in a true conversion, as we Catholics say, and that you were able to accept, as Jesus did on the Cross, suffering and shame, with honor, for the remission of sins and to repair faults.
That way, we would all be united and we would be stronger, we would be the Kingdom of Love under construction. And so I can't defend you anymore.
I look only and always to Him, who is the only hope. And I ask that, from the height of the cross, you have mercy on those who suffer more than I do, that you comfort the good priests, who in these days have been called into question, but also have mercy on me, so that I do not give up.
And so many others like me, who are giving the best of ourselves, in the hope of being a part, however small, in building a better world.
Author: Sandra Côrtes Moreira has a degree in Social Communication from the FCSH of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, a Master's in Educational Communication from the Faculties of Arts and Human and Social Sciences of the Un. from Lisbon and Algarve and Master in La Educación en la Sociedad Multicultural by the Universidad de Huelva. She is a doctoral candidate in Educomunicación y Alfabetización Mediática at the Universidad de Huelva.
Superior Language and Communication Technician at the Municipality of Faro, is also Advisor to the Information Office of the Diocese of Algarve, member of the Pastoral do Turismo and ONPT team.