MANILA (UCAN): The Diocese of San Pablo in Luzon, the Philippines, established an office to handle sexual abuse cases committed by clergymen to encourage more victims to report such crimes.
The move comes partly in response to Pope Francis’ reforms in dealing with sexual abuse cases involving Catholic priests.
Luzon has the highest number of sex crime cases in the Philippines and many more go unreported, according to the diocese, which said it wanted to create a system where victims could feel more comfortable reporting crimes committed by priests. The diocese said it was also abiding by papal wishes.
On 9 May 2019, the pope promulgated Vos estis lux mundi (You are the light of the world) motu proprio (on his own initiative), establishing new procedural norms in handling sexual abuse cases that make priests and their bishops more accountable for such offenses.
“Because of this (the papal document) and in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I am establishing the Office for the Reception of Reports Pertaining to Sexual Abuse by Clergy and Religious in the Diocese of San Pablo,” Bishop Buenaventura Famadico of San Pablo, said in a statement.
“It is painful to see that some of God’s beloved priests have become the source of despair and scandal among the very flock entrusted to them by the Lord,” Bishop Famadico added.
Church authorities in the Philippines have been accused of giving “silent consent” to accused pedophile priests by shrugging off victims’ complaints and transferring offenders from one parish to another.
In 2017, police arrested a priest, Monsignor Arnel Lagarejos, on human trafficking charges after he allegedly arranged with a pimp to have sex with a 13-year-old girl. Local media documented the entrapment operation that confirmed the priest’s identity.
Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, on learning about the arrest, said Church authorities were a group of hypocrites for covering up sexual abuses committed by the clergy.
Duterte, known for his own misogynistic pronouncements, also claimed he was molested by a Jesuit priest when he was a student at a Jesuit school in his hometown in Davao province in Mindanao.