Bishops meet to discuss compensation for victims of abuse within the Catholic Church

Grupo VITA carried out “a total of 56 consultations”, but there are “more consultations scheduled for this month of April”

The definition of the criteria for financial compensation to victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church will dominate the work of the Plenary Assembly of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference (CEP), which meets in Fátima from Monday.

The Portuguese Catholic bishops will have as their main working instrument a proposal presented by the VITA Group, with its coordinator, the psychologist Rute Agulhas, without hiding that the expectation is that, “at this meeting a consensus will be reached and that the process [compensation] can begin shortly afterwards”.

Until this week, 19 victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in Portugal had already expressed their desire to be financially compensated for the damage suffered to the VITA Group – to which 86 situations were reported.

The VITA Group, an organization created by the Portuguese Episcopal Conference (CEP) following the work of the Independent Commission for the Study of Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church – which over the course of almost a year validated 512 testimonies of cases that occurred between 1950 and 2022, pointing, by extrapolation, to a minimum number of 4.815 victims – he added that he had “carried out a total of 56 consultations” and that “more consultations are scheduled for this month of April”.

Since it began its work, the VITA Group has already reported 50 situations to the Church and 18 to the Attorney General's Office and the Judiciary Police, Rute Agulhas told the Lusa agency.

In February, the Permanent Council of the CEP assured that “the Catholic Church in Portugal continues to express its total availability to welcome and listen to the victims on whom such harsh experiences were inflicted, through the VITA Group, the Diocesan Commissions or direct meetings with bishops in each of the dioceses, and reaffirms its firmness in implementing a culture of protection and care for children, young people and vulnerable adults within the ecclesiastical sphere, also contributing to the dialogue on sexual violence against children in society in general”.

In addition to this issue of compensation for victims of sexual abuse, the Catholic episcopate will also prepare two pastoral notes, one on the 50th anniversary of the 25th of April 1974, and another on the 5th National Eucharistic Congress, which will begin in Braga at the end of May.

During the four days of the meeting, the CEP will also focus on the report regarding the synodal process in the Church, taking into account the main meeting that will take place in October at the Vatican, as well as the Ad Limina visit that the Portuguese bishops will make to the Vatican between May 20th and 24th.

The preparation of next year's Jubilee and the 2023 financial report of the CEP General Secretariat are other issues that the bishops will debate in Fátima.

The work begins on Monday afternoon, with an intervention by the president of the CEP, José Ornelas.