LISBON, Portugal (AP) — The Catholic Church in Portugal is setting up a national committee to coordinate the work of local church groups looking into possible cases of child sex abuse by members of the clergy.
The committee will “strengthen and broaden” the church’s response to any current and historic abuse allegations, Portuguese bishops said Thursday after a four-day meeting at the Fátima shrine in central Portugal.
Church officials have not said who will sit on the national committee, nor when it will begin its work nor what its specific guidelines will be. The committee will act as a national “listening post” for developments in investigations, a statement said.
The 21 local groups across the country assessing child sex abuse cases are made up largely of lay people, including lawyers, psychologists and psychiatrists. The groups were set up following Pope Francis’s appeal in 2019 for the church to address abuse allegations.
Some leading Portuguese Catholics, including politicians and writers, had urged bishops to create a fully independent committee to investigate possible historic abuse.
That came after a bombshell report last month revealed large-scale child sex abuse within the French Catholic Church. The study released by an independent commission estimated that some 330,000 children were sexually abused over 70 years by priests or other church-related figures.
Two years ago, Portuguese church officials said authorities had investigated only about a dozen allegations of sexual abuse involving Portuguese priests since 2001. More than half of those cases were dropped because church investigators decided there was not enough evidence to pursue them.
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