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Children’s abuse in Croatia’s Catholic church

Children's abuse in Croatia's Catholic church

The Archbishop of Rijeka, Mate Uzinic, on Monday spoke about the reports and investigations he has conducted over two-and-a-half years into accusations of clerical sexual abuse of children and minors.

The archbishop in tears revealed gruesome cases of sexual violence committed by priests, but said he had initiated the necessary investigations into all the cases he was aware of.

He also said he had reported all the cases to the State Attorney’s Office, DORH,  “regardless of whether it [the case] was under a statute of limitations or not”, and had informed the competent Church Dicastery about the results of the investigations. His said his investigations into illegalities in the Catholic Church has resulted in nine cases.

He said the first case was completed before his arrival, five related to allegations of abuse of minors, while the others were related to finances and concubinage.

The first case, completed before his arrival, concerned a priest, named only as M.S., who was accused in 2016 of sexually abusing a minor in 1992. He pleaded guilty and was dismissed from his Church post.

New allegations surfaced in 2018, and the investigation in to him was reopened. The accused, M.S., admitted that there were in fact several cases, in 1987, 1988 and in 1992-1993, and possibly in 1994, which had involved 13 boys aged six to 13.

The priest then reported himself to the police for acts against children and minors and asked for his on dismissal from the clergy.

The Croatian weekly Nacional has revealed that M.S. is Milan Spehar, former rector of the Catholic Faculty of Theology in Rijeka.

“No one is either guilty or complicit in my crimes. I committed them and I am terribly sorry for the victims of my evil acts,” Nacional cited Spehar as saying in a written reply to the newspaper.

“By being dismissed from the clergy, he is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Rijeka. As far as we know, he currently lives in Italy in a closed Benedictine monastery in prayer and penance. The case was reported to the DORH in Rijeka, but I have no information about the proceedings in this case,” said the Archbishop of Rijeka on Monday.

Croatia’s Ombudsperson for Children has meanwhile expressed concern about the slow pace of resolution of such cases.

“The Office of the Ombudsperson for Children continuously warns of weaknesses in the system of protecting children from this form of violence and calls for their resolution,” Ombudsperson Helenca Pirnat Dragicevic told BIRN, speaking of its “unreserved condemnation and outrage” of cases of sexual abuse.

Although the Ombudsperson notes that she does not have the authority to rush the resolution of individual cases, or influence the decisions of the State Attorney’s Office, Pirnat Dragicevic told BIRN that one of the problems is lengthy court proceedings and inappropriate treatment of the child victims.

She warned of “unequal availability of quality help and support programs for child victims of sexual abuse, and ultimately, if there is a conviction, mild sanctions for the perpetrators of such crimes”. She also warned the media that in such cases the privacy of the victim should be in first place.

Source: Balkan Insight