Vatican official in Mexico: Church members covered up abuses

Mexico City, May 19 (EFE).- The representative of Pope Francis in Mexico, Franco Coppola, admitted on Wednesday that members of the Catholic Church “covered up” cases of abuse by priests in the country for years, cases in which more than 271 priests have been accused or indicted.

“I seriously think that there were people who maliciously covered up things. I want to think that there were also people who covered up things without taking note how serious an act … was,” the nuncio said Wednesday in an interview with EFE at the apostolic nunciature in Mexico City.

The nuncio said that “there are already court cases under way” to unmask “the coverup network” that protected Marcial Maciel (1920-2008), the founder of the Legionnaires of Christ who was accused of sexually abusing members of the congregation and students.

Coppola said that he began to confront the “situation of abuse” when he arrived in Mexico as nuncio in late 2016, and that before he had had no “opportunity to come across any case of this kind or to think about this” in the other countries where he had been working.

“It’s a terrible tragedy about which it can be said that we were not aware. Every time I meet with the victims I see how true it is what Pope Francis said, that abuse is a kind of psychological murder,” he said.

According to figures compiled by the Mexican Church, over the past decade 271 clerics have been accused of child abuse, of whom 103 have been dismissed, 45 have not been suspended and 123 have cases that are still under way.

In March 2020, a delegation sent by the pope and headed by Archbishop Charles Scicluna was scheduled to visit Mexico to evaluate the local clergy in the fight against sexual abuse, but the trip was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Coppola said that the delegation will arrive in Mexico “when the (pandemic) problem ends,” but he also added that the Mexican Episcopal Conference “has not halted its effort.”

“A large portion of the diocese already has protection commissions for minors and the episcopal conference has taken responsibility for training them,” the nuncio said, adding that they have been receiving the professional help of attorneys, psychologists and psychiatrists.

After having been in contact with a number of victims of abuse, Coppola said that pedophilia “is worse than murder” because it has consequences for a victim’s entire life such as “difficulty in relating to other people.”

“I think that there was not so much awareness of what was happening to these people. Thanks to those who have revealed what happened to them, it’s helped us to become aware and to adopt the pope’s zero tolerance stance,” he said.

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