An Opus Dei priest 'bought' the silence of a victim of abuse with a notarized contract

Manuel Cociña – one of the most relevant priests of Opus Dei, who came to live with its founder, José María Escrivá de Balaguer, and the Work's first priest convicted of abuse – paid "financial aid" of thousands of euros to his victim , in exchange for her waiving any criminal proceedings and commenting on the case and even admitting that "those behaviors were in no case sexual abuse", according to a notarial document signed in April 2021 accessed by elDiario.es. Silence as a response to abuse.

"Manuel-José Cociña Abella must commit to (...) pay DMGF the amount of 17,000 euros as financial aid, within a period of fifteen days from the signing of this agreement, and that he would obtain from private donations," reads the text. . The victim has already received the money, as confirmed to elDiario.es by close sources.

The concept of the payment is "financial aid" for "inappropriate behavior", as can be read. Neither in its day Opus Dei, nor now the notarial document, speak of abuses. Moreover, the victim has to sign that "those behaviors [ocurridos en un colegio mayor de Sevilla en 2002] In no case were they sexual abuse.”

The agreement indicates that the expenses of "psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric medication or similar" that the victim may need in the future – from six months after signing the document – ​​should be assumed by himself. The possible sequels and the treatment of him for what he had to endure in the Sevillian College at the expense of the priest will be his business from the economic point of view.

Once the price has been established, the notarial document takes care of the commitments it imposes on the victim. On the one hand, it adds clauses that oblige MGF to “renounce any actions that may correspond to it against Mr. Manuel José Cociña Abella and against any other persons, entities or institutions related to him (Colegio Mayor Almonte, Prelature of Opus Dei, Archbishopric of Seville, Catholic Church)".

In other words, this point tries to remove any possibility that the priest or the institutions around him could be claimed in court. And in any court, since the paragraph continues: “In all jurisdictional orders (civil, criminal, etc.) and in all jurisdictions, both national (Spain, Chile or any other country) and international (International Courts, Holy See or any other), for any events that occurred in the Colegio Mayor in 2002”.

Cociña has only responded to the canonical justice that sentenced him, according to his terminology, for "solicitation" and "recklessness" to five years without being able to practice in public, five of spiritual care in his center and three decades of prohibition of pastoral action with minors 30 years old.

This priest is not just any priest within Opus Dei. Cociña lived with the institution's founder, José María Escrivá de Balaguer, and for years was one of the most influential religious members of Opus Dei in Spain.

He is also the first priest of the Work to be condemned by the Vatican for sexual abuse – although the Catholic code applied other terminologies. With his case, the organization agreed for the first time to apologize to the victim. All this after more than a year of publications in digital religion and elDiario.es, which forced the Obra to issue two communiqués and report, for the first time in its history, the existence of abuses in the institution.

Once the judicial issue has been addressed, the document deals with the public silence. And it states that the victim undertakes, once the money has been received and "out of the desire not to cause damage to related persons, entities or institutions" to "not reveal or pronounce in the media about this agreement or its terms, being able to Otherwise, Mr. Manuel José Cociña Abella will exercise the reimbursement action of the amount paid, as a penalty clause”.

The victim, who now lives in Chile, has declined to make a statement about the aforementioned contract, although he did want to clarify that, once Opus Dei admitted Cociña's "inadequate behavior" and proceeded to his ecclesiastical sentence, the prelate of the Work, Fernando Ocáriz, asked "forgiveness for the damage" he suffered and "for the injuries caused by a priest of the Work." Shortly after, as elDiario.es has learned, the private compensation procedure was launched, in which Opus Dei did not officially participate.

This newspaper has tried to contact Cociña, who currently continues to reside in a house belonging to the Work in Granada, serving a sentence handed down by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: a five-year ban on preaching, hearing confessions and administering sacraments and sacramentals, except for mass in private, for a crime of 'solicitation' and others of 'recklessness'. After this period, her pastoral activity will be limited to the scope of the Opus Dei center where she has her domicile for another five years. In addition, indefinitely, she will not be able to provide pastoral care to people under the age of 30.

Sources close to the cleric admit that "he is calm" and "willing to move forward, accepting the sentence and the resulting consequences."

The canonical penalty is actually negligible for a priest who, according to the testimonies of several people in a canonical process whose minutes, despite what the norms approved by Pope Francis provide, have not been delivered to the victim, practiced touching in the genitals during the confession to several victims, canonical offenses that could have ended with his excommunication or, at least, with his expulsion from the priesthood.

In a signed note on July 16, 2020Opus Dei announced the conviction of Cociña and assured that "the Prelature is attending to the medical and psychological expenses of the complainant, through the Archbishopric of Santiago de Chile."

Now, the spokesman for the Prelature in Rome, Marco Carroggio, points out to elDiario.es that the Work, as such, has only participated in one mediation case in the United States, as well as in another currently in another Latin American country.

"The important thing is to resolve each case well," emphasizes the spokesman for the Work, who shows his surprise at the demand for silence, "unless it is the victim's request." This is not the case. “For us, the way in these cases is the protocols of the Prelature. "In short, what you have to do is open an investigation and a civil or canonical process," concludes Carrogio.

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