The VITA Group will present a proposal this month for financial compensation to victims of sexual abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church, the structure created by the Portuguese Episcopal Conference (CEP) announced today.
“The CEP has also asked the VITA Group for a concrete proposal on how the processes of financial reparation could be defined and made operational, which will be presented this month,” said the group coordinated by psychologist Rute Agulhas for the support and accompaniment of victims of sexual crimes in ecclesiastical settings.
In a statement, the VITA Group also stressed that it has already received 71 requests for help and provided 45 consultations, and that it expects to assist more people this month – which marks the one-year anniversary of the release of the report by the Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuse of Children in the Catholic Church – who have suffered sexual abuse in the context of the Church.
“Most of the situations reported concern adults who were victims of sexual violence in childhood or adolescence, but there are also situations involving especially vulnerable adults,” the statement said.
The VITA Group pointed out that there are 13 people undergoing regular psychological or psychiatric monitoring and that another eight people have been referred for this support and are at an early stage in the process.
He underlined the “positive balance” of the first eight months of work and the “gradual process of trust” between the victims and the Group, which has sought to network with other Church structures. He also highlighted the training already carried out with diocesan commissions, as well as the scheduling of other actions for catechists, teachers of Catholic moral and religious education, teachers in Catholic schools and public schools.
“The Independent Commission’s report was a decisive turning point for the Catholic Church in Portugal which, since then, can no longer claim ignorance of sexually abusive situations within its midst. Situations of sexual violence exist in all parts of society, and the Church is no exception,” recalled the VITA Group, which plans to present its second activity report in Fatima on June 18.
The VITA Group can be contacted via the telephone hotline (91 509 0000) or the referral form, which is now available on the website www.grupovita.pt.
Created in April 2023, within the framework of the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference, it is an exempt, autonomous and independent structure and aims to welcome, listen to, accompany and prevent situations of sexual violence against children and vulnerable adults in the context of the Catholic Church.
The VITA Group came about following the work of the Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuse of Children in the Catholic Church, led by child psychiatrist Pedro Strecht, which over the course of almost a year validated 512 testimonies of cases that occurred between 1950 and 2022, pointing, by extrapolation, to a minimum number of 4,815 victims.