MEXICO CITY — The Mexican bishops’ conference has established a team for protecting children against clerical sexual abuse, advise church leaders and develop and outline prevention protocols.
The team — approved Nov. 15 at the bishops’ general assembly — will be multidisciplinary and will include bishops, priests and “specialized laity and independent (people) with ample experience in these issues.”
“The ‘National Protection of Minors Team’ must work tirelessly … to promote places of dialogue and constructive confrontation to walk toward a culture of care and protection,” the bishops said in a Nov. 21 statement. They recalled Pope Francis’s wish of “‘zero tolerance’ and ‘never again’ toward the culture of abuse, along with the system of cover-up that allowed it to be perpetuated.”
Members of the bishops’ team have not been named, but will be tasked with developing “activities, starting with an integral methodology, which attends to all aspects and with a 360-degree view,” the bishops’ statement said. “Its character will be prevention, detection, support and attention in cases of child sexual abuse in the clerical sphere.”
Additionally, the team will “establish … links with public institutions and private organizations which are specialized in the protection of minors, to promote the best practices and strengthening the culture of prevention and denouncement.”
Mexico has not experienced the same spate of sexual abuse accusations and cases of church cover-ups as has occurred in the United States in 2018, but cases of clerical abuse against minors and seminarians have surfaced south of the border, causing discredit for an institution still considered the most trustworthy in the country, according to surveys. Robust state investigations into abuse claims have been rare, as impunity for crimes in Mexico is the norm rather than the exception. Close relations between clergy and the local establishments — which lean on the Church as a pillar of support in many Mexican states — also are thought to discourage investigations.
“Impunity in Mexico is much higher” than other countries, said Rodolfo Soriano Nunez, a sociologist in Mexico City studying the Catholic Church. Priests accused of abuse often “belong to the very influential elite with links to government, both federal and state level.”
The legacy of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, also still lingers. Maciel, accused of abusing seminarians and living a life contrary to Catholic teachings, received solid support from senior clergy and polite society well past the time when allegations against him were made public.
Mexican dioceses have started to confront the issue, however. The Archdiocese of Mexico City and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests signed an agreement in June to develop protocols for protecting minors, supporting victims and educating the public.