Gaztelueta, case (re)opened: what will happen now?

Gaztelueta, case (re)opened: what will happen now?

"Debug responsibilities and help heal wounds." With these words, Pope Francis has entrusted the Bishop of Teruel, José Antonio Satué, with the mission of instructing a canonical process on the so-called 'Gaztelueta case'. The decision of the Pontiff, advanced by, supposes reopening the falsely closed procedure within the Church but that in civil justice ended with the conviction of a teacher of the school that Opus Dei has in Leioa, Bizkaia, for pederasty. But the measure has been received with concern by broad ecclesiastical sectors, who fear that this is a first step to review other similar processes of the past.

That of Gaztelueta is a peculiar case, since the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to whom Bergoglio commissioned an investigation in 2014, closed abruptly and without allowing the victim or her lawyers to participate in the process. He came to allege a lack of evidence and even demanded "restore the good name of the falsely accused professor."

A teacher, José María Martínez Sanz, who was finally convicted by the Provincial Court of Bizkaia for continuously sexually abusing a minor under 11 years of age. The sentence was later confirmed by the Supreme Court, although reduced to two years as some of the practices could not be sufficiently proven. However, neither Rome nor Opus Dei changed their position. Neither they apologized to the victimdespite repeated requests from the family.

Now, through a letter dated August 12 and signed by Pope Francis, the eternal request of the victim's family became official. The Pontiff thus informed him that he had ordered the reopening of the case, appointing a court and its members. The commission, in addition to the Bishop of Teruel, will be made up of José Luis Perucha Rojo, rector of the Seminary of the Diocese of Sigüenza-Guadalajara, who will act as a notary. As advisers, the rector of the UPSA, Mirian Cortés Dieguez, and the vicar general of Jerez, Federico Mantaras Ruiz-Berdejo.

What will your mission be? "It is going to start from scratch, although what was done, what was not done and, above all, who did it and how will be taken into account," say sources close to a process that, they affirm, "has to be completely redone" . The same sources underline the Pope's intention to "purify responsibility" for the mistakes made in the previous phase. In fact, they clarify that for the moment the work will be similar to that of an investigating judge but that, if necessary, not only will the convicted pedophile be judged by civil justice, but "all the actions of all those involved will be reviewed" . Also from Opus Dei. And also, if necessary, of Cardinals Müller or Ladaria, former prefect and prefect, respectively, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

A thesis that shocks the laconic statement issued this Thursday by the Prelature of Opus Dei, in which the Work ensures that the process is solely and exclusively directed "to the former teacher of the Gaztelueta school, convicted by the Biscay Court in 2018 for sexual abuse of a student", and not all those involved, directly or indirectly, in the process.

In said statement, the Work dedicates two of the six paragraphs to recalling that "in 2020, the Supreme Court reduced the sentence from eleven to two years in prison upon appreciating 'insufficient evidence and an evaluative discourse' in the process" and pointing out that "In 2015, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith conducted an investigation, which concluded with the professor's innocence." At the same time, the note adds that "the professor has requested that the interested media be referred to his lawyer, to avoid interference by third parties in the open ecclesiastical and civil processes."

The teacher, for his part, issued another letter in which he expressed his perplexity about "how such a (canonical) process can be initiated against a layman", but showed his "willingness to collaborate with the competent authorities". "I will not stop reiterating my innocence if you want to listen to me," argues the also member of the Obra Martínez Sanz, and insists that he is "available to receive any official communication that informs me of the process and its guarantees." In this sense, it will not be strange throughout the entire process to see two different versions, that of the work and that of the defense of the teacher, who have decided to follow different paths.

From now on, the investigation will start at the request of the Pope and within the jurisdiction of the Bishopric of Bilbao. An issue that is not incidental, since it was in that diocese where the abuses occurred and where the school of the Work is located. That is why they have not been the Bishop of Teruel, José Antonio Satué, nor the Episcopal Conference nor the Holy See those who have officially reported the papal decision to "order the instruction of a canonical process", but Joseba Segura, in his capacity as Bishop of Bilbao.

It is he who, on behalf of Francisco, must inform the members of the commission, who have not yet defined their role, although everything indicates that it will have to do with the analysis of the case files and the actions of the protagonists. "This process is intended to purge responsibilities and help heal wounds," concludes the note from the diocese of Bilbao, which makes the two main objectives clear and destroys the intention of the Work to leave all the protagonism to the teacher condemned.

"Refining responsibilities and healing wounds produced" implies two processes. In the first place, determine who or who should be accountable for actions that are illegal and contrary to canon law. Secondly, to put an end to the "wounds" of, it is understood, the victim, who to date has only received a request for forgiveness from the diocese but not from the school (which continues to consider his former teacher innocent), neither of the abuser (who reiterates his innocence), nor of Opus Dei, to which the family belonged. The letter from Prelate Ocáriz to Juan Cuatrecasas demonstrates this.

What will happen then? The first thing is to establish the commission and distribute the work, which will be done in two ways: on the one hand, the analysis of the documentation and the procedure (how it was obtained and what guarantees were there); on the other, the testimonials. It seems clear that both the victim and the abuser will be called to testify –certainly before Satué, with the company of Perucha in his capacity as notary–, in a procedure in which, unlike the previous one, the lawyers of the parties will have access to documentation and assistance to its customers.

When the time comes, the instructors could interrogate both Silverio Nieto, in charge of a testimonial to the victim that his family has always disowned, as well as those responsible for the Gaztelueta school or the heads of the Work in Spain. The development of events could lead to requesting the presence of the previous bishop of Bilbao, Mario Iceta, and the current one, Joseba Segura, and, if necessary, although this possibility is further away, the technicians of the Doctrine of the Faith.

With all the information, the court will determine whether to request the Holy See to open a canonical trial, file the process or consider that a decision can be made with the investigation carried out. What seems evident, and this way it has been able to verify this means of different involved, is that the intention of the Pope is the same that appears at the end of the statement by Joseba Segura: "Debug responsibilities and heal the wounds produced".

And for this, a process of listening, participation and empathy with those who (with a final judgment of the Supreme Court in hand) is a victim of abuse is an essential condition. And also with whom (with a final judgment of the Supreme Court in hand) has been convicted of abusing minors. The goal is the search for canonical truth. Because the legal is already clear.

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