A Philippine diocese southeast of Manila has established an office to handle sexual abuse cases committed by clergymen to encourage more victims to report such crimes. The move by San Pablo Diocese on the Philippines’ largest island Luzon comes partly in response to Pope Francis’ reforms in dealing with sexual abuse cases involving Catholic priests. Luzon has the highest number of sex crime cases in the Philippines and many more go unreported, according to the diocese, which said it wanted to create a system where victims could feel more comfortable reporting crimes committed by priests. The diocese said it was also abiding by papal wishes. The pope promulgated on May 9, 2019, a motu proprio
, a document issued on his own initiative titled Vos estis lux mundi
(You are the light of the world), establishing new procedural norms in handling sexual abuse cases that make priests and their bishops more accountable for such offenses. “Because of this [the papal document] and in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I am establishing the Office for the Reception of Reports Pertaining to Sexual Abuse by Clergy and Religious in the Diocese of San Pablo,” said Bishop Buenaventura M. Famadico of San Pablo in a statement.
He also said his diocese would ensure strict confidentiality in handling such cases. “It is painful to see that some of God’s beloved priests have become the source of despair and scandal among the very flock entrusted to them by the Lord,” Bishop Famadico added. Church authorities in the Philippines have been accused of giving “silent consent” to accused pedophile priests by shrugging off victims’ complaints and transferring offenders from one parish to another. In 2017, police arrested a priest, Monsignor Arnel Lagarejos, on human trafficking charges after he allegedly arranged with a pimp to have sex with a 13-year-old girl. Local media documented the entrapment operation that confirmed the priest’s identity. President Rodrigo Duterte, on learning about the arrest, said church authorities were a group of “hypocrites” for covering up sexual abuses committed by the clergy. Duterte also claimed he was molested by a Jesuit priest when he was a student at a Jesuit school in his hometown in Davao province in Mindanao.
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