Sexual abuse by Catholic priests surfaces in Mexico with 152 priests removed

Scandal continues to dog the Catholic Church after years of investigations around the globe reveal decades of situations that directly implicate men of power in carrying out grave sexual abuses in the Catholic Church.

From hard-hitting documenting like in the award-winning drama Spotlight, which revealed the scope of abuses in just one US state uncovered by The Boston Globe, to raids on the Catholic Church’s Episcopal headquarters in Chile at the end of last year, abuses continue to be unearthed around the world.

At least 152 Roman Catholic priests from Mexico have been allegedly removed over the last nine years according to the head of the Mexican bishops’ conference, reported the Associated Press. Whilst continuing to explain within the article that some of the priests have since been arrested, the full extent of abuses conducted within Mexico are unclear as a result of a system which means that bishops oversee the clergy in their particular diocese.

The news comes just over one week before bishops’ conferences from around the globe are set to descend on a three-day conference at the Vatican regarding sexual abuse allegations within the church, with Pope Francis repeatedly affirming there is a no-tolerance approach to abuse cases against minors and vulnerable people. Last week, however, further allegations of abuses taking place against nuns have sparked a further outcry from Catholic circles.

Mexico has the second largest following of Catholicism in the world after Brazil. It is not unusual to catch Catholic processions take to the streets across the country, and see churches cram packed on Sundays with a staggering 81% of Mexican adults identifying as Catholic just three years ago.

Although there has been some noise regarding Catholic priests in Latin America, particularly through last year’s wide-spread scandal in Chile, on top of other cases from Argentina, Brazil and Peru, little is in fact documented about investigations in the region. This contrasts high profile cases that have been uncovered in the United States for instance in the state of Pennsylvania, where over 300 priests were linked to decades of sexual abuse. To put into context, the US state boasts a small population of around 12 million people, in comparison to Mexico’s 129 million.

Among the cases that have been brought to light in Mexico, the most prominent appears to be that of Marcial Maciel, the Mexican founder of the Legion of Christ. The priest died in 2008, but investigations after he died uncovered the priest’s double life that consisted of two mistresses, as well as sexual abuse claims with minors, as well as his own children. Maciel managed to spend the duration of time in power unchecked by the Catholic hierarchy, and in 2015 Pope Francis offered to pardon the Legion as long as the organisation undertook ‘spiritual works of mercy’ based on a report by The Guardian.

According to Telemundo, Mexico currently holds hundreds of cases against Catholic priests, of whom victims are yet to be supported, but this comes in stark contrast to just three cases that have officially led to convictions in Mexico in the last few years. Failures to bring those responsible to justice in Mexico appears, however, to be somewhat of a trend in a country struggling with rife levels of corruption as well as impunity. In 2016, roughly nine out of every 100 crimes in Mexico led to a criminal conviction.

In a country which boasts the second largest Catholic following in the world, suggestions that there is yet to be a consolidation of sexual abuse claims at a national level calls into question whether there are considerably more than 152 priests involved with the abuses.

“It’s an irresponsible figure because victims are still waiting for retribution for their damages,” Martin Faz Mora, a lawyer currently representing 19 victims of one Mexican priest is quoted saying by IOL. “In no instance has the Church approached the question of repairing victims’ damages.”

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