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Holy orders and court orders

28 May 2014



This billboard, which appeared in San Luis Potosi two weeks ago, was the metaphoral lance that opened a huge boil in the side of the Mexican Catholic Church. The billboard features a photo of suspected pedophile Eduardo Córdova, and urges his victims to file criminal charges. There was no indication of who paid for the billboard and Cordova, at the time, was still a parish priest in the Diocese of San Luis Potosí. The State Prosecutor’s office claimed no criminal complaints had been filed against then Father Cordova, although Archbishop Jesús Carlos Cabrera Romero took the unusual step of opening church files related to Cordova to State investigators.

Within days, more than 100 cases of probable molestation were received by the prosecutors office, and a former priest who worked in the Chancellory came forward with claims he had covered up Cordova’s crimes in the past, assisting in his transfer from parish to parish ahead of “scandals”. Explosively, the former priest, Alberto Athié Gallo, claimed the state governor, Fernando Toranzo Fernández and his wife, had both participated in the coverup.

The Diocescan press office called a news conference to announce that Cordova was being defrocked, in itself an indication that seemed at first to suggest they were simply going to cut Cordova loose, by way of damage control. However, a team of lawyers representing fifteen working class families, not trusting that the those who covered up for Cordova (within the Church and within the PRI and the local establishment), have managed a “work around” : forcing the prosecutor’s office to name the Archbishop and his two predessors as co-conspiritors in a coverup.

This won’t be the first time members of the hierachy have been defendents in criminal cases. Cardinal NOrberto Rivera was forced to testify in a California court in a case also involving the transfer of a pedophile priest, but his testimony was limited to a deposition, and he never had to face any charges. Onesimo Cepeda, who had recently retired as Bishop of Ecatepac, was accused of fraud by the powerful Azucarraga family in connection with his role as executor of one family member’s large estate, and was arrested, but — given his ties to the establishment (including his accusers) — the charges were quietly dismissed and apparently the issue was resolved privately.

Given that this is a Mexican court, where the archbishops are co-defendants, and that there is less likelihood of a private settlement … and the Vatican itself has indicated it is willing to cooperate with legal authorities in these kinds of cases… there is every chance their Excellencies will have to answer in a public courtroom… and name names. I tend to think the latter is much more important than any punishment the court might mete out to the Archbishops. They are very unlikely to go to jail, and — thanks to Benito Juarez — the Church really doesn’t have the deep pockets to pay out huge fines (it doesn’t really own any property of note), but putting the hierarchy in a position where they have to chose between saving their own skins, or ratting out the establishment, the cozy relationship between church and state will be sorely taxed.

And, perhaps more importantly, the Church is starting to realize it needs to be more proactive. It’s not easy for some, but even the often clueless “Padre Beto” seems to be getting the message:


Sin Embargo:

La PGJE de San Luis pedirá expediente de cura ligado a pederastia; en espectaculares llaman a denunciarlo, 19 May 2914

La sociedad civil contra el arzobispodo de SLP, A SOCIEDAD CIVIL CONTRA EL ARZOBISPADO DE SLP, Sanjuana Martínez, 27 may 2014

Animal Politica:

Denuncian ante PGR a sacerdote por más de 100 casos de abuso sexual en SLP, 13 May 2014

Catolicas por el Derecho a Decidir:

Catolicados, Capitula 12: “Una iglesia no amparo los criminales”

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