A total of 12 victims abused by Montserrat Monastery monk demand justice at a time when sexual abuses by the Catholic Church is gaining worldwide criticism.
Miguel Hurtado, 36, was abused by monk Andreu Soler. He now runs an online petition to Spanish authorities to significantly extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse against minors.
Since Hurtado went public with his accusations in January, eight people have denounced the same monk for having sexually abused them years ago, according to Spanish media.
Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who is facing an early general election in April, said on the petition website that he would study the proposals and act to prevent that kind of crime. The petition on website change.org has received over 520,900 signatures since it launched in 2016.
In Spain, historically a fervently Catholic country, activists say thousands of cases had likely been silenced and many could emerge now as the debate opens up. “For me, the worst part was not the abuses, but the Church covering it up,” Hurtado told Reuters.
He said Josep Maria Soler, had for years sought to silence his accusation that monk Andreu Soler sexually molested him 20 years ago when he was a 16-year-old Boy Scout in a group led by the monk.
The monastery said in a statement to the media last month that the abbot had known about Hurtado’s accusations since taking over in 2000 and that it paid 8,600 euros (US$9,740) to cover Hurtado’s therapy costs and expenses with lawyers in 2003.
The monastery promised “to act with complete transparency” and asked for “forgiveness for everything where it has not lived up to expectations” adding it had always been guided by a desire to help Hurtado.
Hurtado, who is scheduled to meet the Vatican summit’s organizing committee Wednesday along with 11 other victims, says the Montserrat abbot should have reported his case to the police while the statute of limitations still allowed it, instead of paying what he said was “money for my silence”.
He said he returned the money in 2015, except for 1,400 euros paid in lawyer’s fees, after learning that the Abbey published a book praising his abuser in 2007.
The Church has repeatedly been criticized for its handling of the sexual abuse crisis, which exposed how predator priests were moved from parish to parish instead of being defrocked or turned over to civilian authorities around the world.
On Saturday, the Vatican sent what some saw as a warning that it would get tough with bishops who have either committed abuse or covered it up. It expelled former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from the priesthood after he was found guilty of sexual crimes against minors and adults.