Abuse probe launched in Puerto Rico

Revelations leave faithful shaken

Authorities in Puerto Rico have confirmed they are investigating cases of clerical sexual abuse as the number of priests implicated in abuse allegations grows.

Following a series of allegations in a newspaper in January, the local Church moved to deal with the revelations, admitting that, since 2011, some six allegedly errant priests have been defrocked. The Church has also admitted offering counselling to one abuse victim and having paid damages to others, though no details on numbers or costs were released.

However, it has now emerged that Bishop Daniel Fernandez Torres of Areciba, who offered authorities the details of one of the accused priests at the end of February now faces investigation himself linked to alleged abuse of a youth, and prosecutors have revealed that a further 11 priests are facing formal criminal investigations relating to sex abuse in a number of dioceses across the nation, deeply unsettling Puerto Rico’s Catholic community. Bishop Torres has strongly rejected the charge levelled against him.

Bishops elesewhere have reacted quickly, releasing details of their own actions against priests, including the involvement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. However, authorities have indicated that charges may follow in relation to the withholding of information relevant to the criminal investigations.

Promising an in-depth investigation, Puerto Rico’s Justice Secretary Cesar Miranda said of abusing priests: "We are going to capture them, we are going to process them and we are going to put them in jail."