This past week, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was criticized for a statement about Catholic child sexual abuse cases in Portugal. On Tuesday, the President said that the 424 complaints received by the Independent Commission for the Study of Abuse of Minors in the Church (CIEAMI) were not “particularly high.”
After criticism by the public and members of parliament on the left and the right, the President denies devaluing the complaints of victims of child sexual abuse by the church.
Rather, he said that he believes the real number of cases is much higher than what has been reported while highlighting that every single case is serious.
He said, “It doesn’t surprise me. There is no time limit for these complaints, some are coming from 80 and 90 year old people about abuse suffered 60 or 70 years ago.”
“Therefore, this means there is a large group of people involved with the Catholic church, millions of young people or hundreds of thousands of young people. 400 cases do not seem like a particularly high number when in other smaller countries there were thousands of cases,” he adds.
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa also said that being a Catholic is not impacting his reaction.
When asked whether he was bothered by the criticism of his comments, Marcelo denied this. He said, “I don’t feel that way. This is democracy. The only ones that feel bothered are dictators.”
Prime Minister Antonio Costa expressed his solidarity with the President to journalists in Viseu on Wednesday, calling the situation an “unacceptable interpretation of his words.” Siding with Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Costa that “those who made this interpretation are the ones that owe the President of the Republic an apology.”
However, this is not the first time President Marcelo has been involved in a controversy regarding his public statements concerning sexual abuse in the Catholic church. Back in July, the President defended two cardinals of the Catholic church, Manuel Clemente and Jose Policarpo, for alleged cover-ups of child sexual abuse cases.