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Spanish Judge Charges Ten Catholic Priests With Child Sex Abuse

An investigation into the alleged offences by a group of priests and laypeople in Granada — dubbed the Clan of the Romanones — was launched after the personal intervention of Pope Francis.

by Donato Paolo Mancini
Jan 28 2015, 5:13pm

Image via Reuters

A judge in the southern Spanish city of Granada has charged ten Roman Catholic priests and two laypeople with alleged sexual offences involving four underage boys, in a case which has drawn the personal intervention of Pope Francis.

Antonio Moreno Marín, investigating magistrate at the Fourth Court of Granada, released a five-page statement alleging that, from 2004 to 2007, an altar boy suffered unwanted sexual acts at the hands of a priest named as Roman M. V. C, the purported ringleader, in which the other accused also participated. The Spanish daily El Pais named the alleged leader as Román Martínez, one of four people who were arrested in November and released on bail.

The investigation began after the now 24-year old wrote a letter to Pope Francis detailing the alleged abuse, prompting the pontiff to personally phone him and order action by the Archdiocese of Granada. The group of twelve, labeled "the Clan of the Romanones" by the Spanish press, have also been charged with offences against a second boy, while two other victims have provided witness testimony.  All of them were underage at the time of the alleged crimes, which were said to have taken place at two houses used by the priests.

After the Pope's phone call to the former alter boy, the Archbishop of Granada, Francisco Javier Martinez, prostrated himself along with other priests in front of the altar of the city's cathedral to ask forgiveness for sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. All of the accused priests have been removed from their duties.

The claims of the main plaintiff — who now describes himself as a supernumerary in Opus Dei, an influential Catholic religious organisation — were detailed in the judge's report, published today after a secrecy order was lifted.

Telling of how the abuse started, he recalled going to the oratory of the Church of San Juan de Vianney, in Granada, with a friend. He was 14 at the time and said he at first saw nothing strange with being around the priests and "spending the night to watch some movies" at their invitation. The clergymen allegedly said they believed in his "potential to become a priest" and told him he had to be "initiated" to their "way of life."

One night, the plaintiff was invited to sleep in Román Martínez's bed, the other beds being empty, he claimed. After he declined the offer, the priest allegedly threatened the altar boy with "calling off the special nature of their father-son relationship", telling him that "(Roman) was his father" and that he "had to let himself go, because he wasn't living well with his sexuality." 

The document also contained details of the sexual encounters, in which "the priest would approach the young boy with his erect penis, asking him to touch it until ejaculating," and "penetrating him anally, causing the 14-year old substantial pain."

The plaintiff also claimed that, in 2006 and 2007, pornographic movies would be played by the groups of priests in his's presence, to "make him feel that what he was seeing, i.e. mutual fellatio and masturbation, was normal." He conceded to partial contact with Father Román Martínez and his alleged accomplices for fear of "being kicked out of the group."

Another alleged victim claimed, in the same document, that he was made to massage the priest "with libidinous purpose" in 2003 and 2004. Moreno noted that the individual involved is now undergoing psychological treatment.

Two other individuals said that they saw, at the ages of 14 and 15, the priests bathing naked in the pool and getting changed without any hint of prudishness. Other alleged episodes mentioned in the document included "being touched in the showers, without consent."

The judge has given all parties involved ten days to appeal against the charges on the basis of the Spanish Statute of Limitations. Following the release of the document, the archbishop of Granada issued a statement in which "hope for justice" was expressed.

Main image: The archbishop of Granada and fellow priests prostrated themselves in front of the altar of the city's cathedral to ask forgiveness for sexual abuse in the Church after the allegations came to light.

Follow Donato Paolo Mancini on Twitter: @building