El Salvador continues crackdown on pedophile priests
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El Salvador continues crackdown on pedophile priests

El Salvador’s Roman Catholic Church revealed that it suspended another priest for sexual abuse after a preliminary investigation.

The Archbishop of San Salvador Jose Luis Escobar announced on Sunday that Juan Francisco Galvez, a parish priest in the town of Rosario de Mora, was relieved of ecclesiastical duties after the conclusion of a preliminary investigation carried out in October 2015. Escobar said that Galvez victimized several people, but declined to give details on the victims’ identities.

Galvez denied the charges.

“I invite all those who have experienced sexual abuse from priests to come forward and directly approach me, Bishop Gregorio Chavez, or  Monsignor Rafael Urrutia,” Escobar said.

He also reiterated the Catholic church’s zero tolerance towards sexual abuse.

Galvez’ case comes less than a week after the announcement of a high-profile priest’s suspension on charges of rape.

Even a “well-loved” priest is not exempted 

Monsignor Rafael Urrutia, head of external affairs for the archdiocese of San Salvador, told reporters on Thursday that Jesus Delgado was suspended on November 15 for raping a minor multiple times.

“Monsignor Jesus Delgado has been suspended from all priestly, pastoral and administrative roles because of a complaint of sexual abuse of minors,” said Urrutia.

A 42-year-old woman told authorities that Delgado, now 77, raped her when she was eight years old. The abuse continued for nine years until the victim turned 17. The accused priest said that he’s willing to meet the victim and apologize.

It is unclear if charges will be pressed against Delgado as the alleged crime took place more than 20 years ago. According to Urrutia, the victim only wants the priest to leave the priesthood and apologize.

“We deeply regret these facts, we apologize to the victim, society and ask the Lord to call us to conversion. Our archdiocese will not cover up any cases of abuse. We will always be in favor of justice and truth, and will defend the children,” Urrutia added.

Bishop Delgado is a notable priest in the country. He served as the biographer and personal secretary of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a Salvadoran priest who was shot in 1980 while giving mass. Archbishop Romero was recently beatified by Pope Francis in Vatican.

Vanda Pignato, secretary of the country’s social inclusion ministry, expressed her outrage on Delgado’s inclusion to the delegation of El Salvadoran priests who traveled to Rome to thank the Pope for Romero’s beatification. According to her, the Catholic Church already know of the victim’s affidavit when they let Delgado attend the ceremony in Vatican.

“Not only is he included in the delegation, but he was also sitting at the front row,” Pignato said in an interview.

Accused priests take refuge in Latin America

A year-long study by GlobalPost titled Fugitive Fathers revealed many priests who were accused with sexual abuse relocating to poorer countries in Latin America. The report was published early this year.

GlobalPost found out that the Catholic Church only transferred accused priests, mostly from the United States, to less-developed countries instead of turning them over to the authorities. The priests were able to start new lives, far from the reach of the media and investigators until eventually, their cases are forgotten.  Some are even leading mass or hold high ranks in their local church.

“As developed countries find it tougher to keep predator priests on the job, bishops are increasingly moving them to the developing world where there are less vigorous law enforcement, less independent media, and a greater power differential between priests and parishioners,” said David Clohessy, spokesman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

The report also told the stories of several victims who are still carrying the traumas and scars from the actions of the abusive priests.

One priest preaching in the a small Peruvian village even admitted to GlobalPost that he had molested a 13-year-old boy when he was with the diocese of Jackson, Mississippi. He has since moved to Peru because he is now barred from working in the U.S.

Since the publication of GlobalPost’s report, two priests have been suspended. Namely, Jan Van Dael from Brazil, and Federico Baeza from Colombia.

According to the GlobalPost, official representatives of the Roman Catholic Church declined to speak with them or give a statement.

See also:

Catholic Church finds no easy answers in struggle to balance tradition with new realities in Latin America