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ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 14, 2022 / 15:05 pm (CNA).
Spain’s Supreme Court has confirmed an appeal court’s sentence of 30 years in prison for a man convicted of sexually abusing minors and who was expelled from the clerical state by Pope Francis in 2019 for repeatedly refusing to serve the canonical sentence that had been imposed upon him.
The ex-priest was accused of sexually abusing seven minors who were studying at the minor seminary of the Diocese of Ciudad Real in Spain where he was a formator.
The high court dismissed the appeal filed by Pedro Jiménez Arias against the judgment of the Superior Court of Justice of Castilla La Mancha, which increased the sentence to 30 years from the 22 years and eight months that the Provincial Court of Ciudad Real had imposed.
The Supreme Court confirmed a fine amounting to more than $52,000 and compensation of about $2,000 to each of the seven victims.
The ruling rejected Arias’ claim that the behaviors considered to be sexual abuse were part of a game, but quite the contrary were “clever acts to attack the sexual well-being of minors.”
According to the sentence, the ex-priest inappropriately touched the students in the minor seminary’s pool with the excuse of drowning “being repeated and prolonged behaviors over time, throughout the swimming season in the pool and harming several students under his supervision.”
The Supreme Court also considered that the so-called “cures” in the students’ rooms, “forcing minors to lower their underpants and feeling their genitals and penis, under the pretext of these cures, have an evident sexual nature.”
Similarly, the court pointed out that “making minors undress cannot be considered as a mere test of trust and acts of masturbation or contemplation of the penis of minors clearly violate their sexual freedom and well-being.”
The Spanish court took note of the aggravating circumstance of the perpetrator prevailing upon four of the seven victims, when it was proven that he took advantage of his position as formator of the minors, who were then 13 years old and were living in a boarding school.
The court ruling determined “the existence of the emotional vulnerability of the minors that the formator, using the inherent authority of the position he held, took advantage of in order to perpetrate the crimes.”
This circumstance “is inseparable from consideration of the victims’ vulnerability: taking advantage exists because the perpetrator is the formator of the minors, is in charge of them; and minors, who are under the age of 16, which fixes the age of sexual consent and are close to 13, are boarding at the seminary, in a certain environment and subject to a specific discipline,” the court ruled.
The Spanish Supreme Court rejected the accusations against the victims and their families that they coordinated the testimonies and considered that the statements of the minors, as stated in the judgment under appeal, “are clear, precise, coherent in the incrimination and without contradictions in relevant matters.”
Expelled from the priesthood by Pope Francis
The incidents in the case of Arias, which go back to 2016, were brought to the prosecutor’s office by the Diocese of Ciudad Real itself on behalf of the parents of the abused minors.
Before the civil justice system had reached its decision, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decreed that Arias must be secluded in a monastery for five years with spiritual and psychological assistance, which Jiménez repeatedly refused.
The Vatican published a decree signed by Pope Francis establishing in May 2019 the “dismissal ex officio et pro bono Ecclesiae from the clerical state of the Rev. D. Pedro Jiménez Arias.”
As it was signed by the Holy Father, the decree cannot be appealed.
In February 2020, following the guidelines set by the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, the Diocese of Ciudad Real issued a decree establishing a diocesan office in charge of receiving reports regarding conduct that could constitute crimes of sexual abuse.
Father Adriano Delgado Perea, who is in charge of receiving complaints for the diocese, confirmed to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, that since the service was inaugurated, no accusation has been received.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.