Not soft on abusers says new Papal appointee

Not soft on abusers

The newly appointed head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Víctor Fernández, is not soft on abusers.

In a statement late Monday, the spokesperson for the Archdiocese of La Plata, Argentina, countered allegations from that Fernández did not fully believe victims of sexual abuse.

Fernández has served as the Archbishop of La Plata since 2018.

The spokesman claims the Archbishop emphasised that while such accusations are “always believed,” natural justice demands a thorough investigation, and due process is required.

Fernández has long faced criticism from – a US-based group that tracks sexual abuse by clergy.

In a written statement,’s group co-director Anne Barrett Doyle said Fernández “publicly defended” and supported a priest in the face of five sex abuse allegations in 2019.

She said that Fernández continued to stand by the priest even after an arrest warrant was issued and the priest committed suicide.

His “handling of that case causes me great concern. He kept the priest in parish ministry, even as more and more victims came forward.

“He showed a reckless willingness to gamble with the safety of children. He showed contempt for the alleged victims.

“If his response to this case is representative of his attitude toward allegations, he will do tremendous harm as prefect [of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith].”

However, his spokesperson says the archbishop is not soft on sex abusers, and in regard to the case Doyle raised, Fernández “never expressed that he did not believe them [the alleged victims], beyond what some blogs that issue free opinions may have said,” the spokesperson says.

He notes accusers in cases like this are always, in principle, automatically believed.

The spokesman says Fernández is not to be swayed by either side until he knows the facts as decided in court.

He says Fernández believes investigation and due process are necessary because the legislation itself establishes it.

“As new testimonies appeared, the archbishop was taking new measures, beginning by prohibiting him [the accused] from all activities with minors until confining him in a Caritas department,” his spokesperson says.

“At the beginning it was only a matter of reopening a criminal and canonical investigation that had been closed years before.

“Subsequently, other new testimonies appeared and new measures were taken before them.”

In fact, far from being soft, the archdiocese has done well in responding to clergy abuse cases, the spokesperson says.

He cites a priest imprisoned and another (the Institute Miles Christi founder) expelled from the priesthood.

In all cases, established corresponding steps were followed “and always in consultation with the Holy See in the correspondence that is preserved.”

The spokesperson added that Pope Francis asked Fernández to focus on his new role’s doctrinal or theological sections, leaving child abuse matters to the specialised professionals of the discipline section.

Fernández is set to begin his tenure at the Vatican in September.


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