The bishopric of Salamanca ignored for decades, without informing the police, the denunciations against a priest finally condemned in the Vatican for sexual abuse of minors in 2014, Isidro López Santos, 77 years old. The canonical sentence only came after the denunciation in the diocese of one of his victims, Javier Paz, in 2011, and to bring his case to public light three years later. He accused him of abuses between 1982 and 1992. Later, two other persons joined the complaint, although the Bishopric silenced him and never mentioned in his press reports that there was more than one victim. He only used a generic plural, so Javier Paz's seemed like an isolated case. Is The Church herself recognizes this past of neglected denunciations in the sentence of the case dictated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican dicastery that deals with internal discipline. The sentence was read to the victims in the summer of 2014 and they were not given a copy, only the accused, but one of them was careful to record that reading. EL PAÍS has had access to that recording, which contains numerous unpublished details kept secret by the Bishopric and confirms a case in Spain of the practice established in other countries where the scandal has been uncovered: priests accused of abuses that have remained for years changing them of parish.
The decree of the sentence admits that there were more denunciations in the past that fell on deaf ears: "While I was ministering in the parishes of San Julián and San Martín, and then in San Pedro Apostle de Tejares, in the diocese of Salamanca, and he was a teacher in the secondary education centers Fray Luis de León and Torres Villarroel, located in Salamanca, he was accused of various crimes of sexual abuse of minors, but then such complaints were not considered credible. " This period covers several decades: in the parish of San Julián and San Martín it remained from the seventies until the mid-nineties, and in San Pedro Apóstol, until 2003. Therefore, the denunciations would go back at least to the nineties .
A parish priest from Salamanca who knew about the transfer of this priest from San Julián and San Martín to San Pedro Apóstol indicates that it was "very anomalous", because he left an important parish in the center, next to the Plaza Mayor of the city, to stop in Tejares, a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. "We all thought something strange had happened," he recalls. A few years later, this priest continues, the rumor spread in the city of a presumed denunciation of abuses against the priest in Tejares, "and then he disappeared from there." "The bishop never wanted to clarify to the diocese what had happened and if that was true or not," he concludes.
Before, after his ordination in 1965, Isidro López had passed through another parish of the city, Nuestra Señora de Fátima, in the neighborhood of Garrido. After his departure from the parish of San Pedro Apóstol in Tejares, he was stationed in the church of San Sebastián, next to the cathedral of the city. After the denunciation of 2011, he was retired by the diocese, although he received a tribute, but while the process lasted, more than three years, he continued to help in a parish of the city, San Mateo-La Anunciación.
So far the only known victim of abuse of priest Isidro López Santos was Javier Paz Ledesma, who publicly denounced his case, already prescribed in court, in 2014. The bishopric opened a canonical process with his complaint in 2011, which ended in a conviction , but in reality two more people joined the cause, although it did not become known then. The diocese never specified it and gave the impression that it was a single isolated case. EL PAÍS has spoken with another of the complainants, who prefers to remain anonymous. He has also located a fourth person who describes an attempt to touch him by the priest from whom he managed to escape. "We were alone, he put his hand in my pants, but I took it off and ran away, if he came to leave me, I do not know what would have happened," he recalls.
All spent their childhood and adolescence in the parish of San Julián, in the center of Salamanca, directed by this priest. Javier Paz denounced abuses between 1982 and 1992, between his 10 and 20 years. The two victims who joined his initiative place them between 1989 and 1994. The fourth person with whom he made an attempt states that it occurred between 1984 and 1985, when he was 12 years old.
"I'm sure there are dozens more cases that have not come to light. He has had a thousand opportunities and we spent hundreds of children there for years, "says the second victim who denounced the case. Javier Paz agrees with this observation. Both relate the same. The parish had some premises, known as La Torre, where catechesis was given and which also had a playground, with table tennis and a television to watch football games. The children spent many afternoons in this place. "There it happened many times. Then there were the summer camps. Those who were sick slept in the priest's shop, and also those who went to kitchen, "he continues.
This second complainant admits that the abuses have marked him, as well as the third, which since then has suffered severe psychological problems. Finally, they managed to tell their families, and thanks to the example of Javier Paz, they added to their complaint: "The bishop at the beginning was very receptive, he asked me for forgiveness in the name of the Church, but then he changed. He asked me to give him more names of other victims, it was what I wanted to know, but I did not want to, and then he distanced himself, then he did not pick up the phone anymore. We did not want money or anything, we followed the canonical process because all we wanted was for him to recognize himself and not ever be with children again. "
In February 2011, when Javier Paz presented his complaint to the bishop, Carlos López, they did not believe him either: "The bishop, considering the good reputation of the priest, judged that there were not enough elements to proceed so he did not inform the priest that he had been object of denunciation ". Until August, six months later, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was not informed, it details the resolution, although it does not explain in what way or procedure. One of the victims, contacted by this newspaper, points out that a relative sent a letter to the Holy See on his own, so it is not yet clear whether the initiative to finally act against the accused started from the Bishopric or the Vatican. Javier Paz, in any case, has already expressed his suspicions that the diocese of Salamanca could deceive him making him believe that there was a canonical process going on, when in reality it was not like that.
Finally, the resolution continues, in September 2011 a preliminary investigation was opened and the first testimonies "corroborated the victim's version". The defendant partially acknowledged the facts, touching and masturbation, but in a first conversation and twice in writing denied "being an abuser", says the sentence. "Finally, he confessed in writing to have abused several times of minors," concludes the decree, which also states that his "statement was not consistent."
The Bishopric of Salamanca has refused to give information to this newspaper of how many complaints and cases of abuse he has known about this priest, and above all, since when. "I do not know and if I knew I would not say it, it would be in court," the vicar of the diocese, Florentino Gutiérrez, responded last week. A spokesman says that "there are no" more complaints than Javier Paz.
Carlos López, the current bishop, is not the only one who should give explanations. Since the nineties, the time of the denunciations now known, three bishops have passed through the city: Mauro Rubio, until 1995, now deceased; Braulio Rodríguez, from 1995 to 2002, who is the current archbishop of Toledo and primate of Spain; and Carlos López, who remains in office. The archbishop of Toledo, with charges in the Episcopal Conference in recent years, has not wanted to clarify this newspaper if he knew these complaints during his time in Salamanca.
There is a detail of the sentence that indicates the relevance of the case, in contrast to the silence that the diocese has maintained and the secrecy with which it has treated it in its scarce public notes: the proceedings of the canonical penal process against the priest Isidro López Santos, They arrived in Rome in March 2014, they occupied 341 pages and two annexes of 99. That is, more than 500. In fact, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, "taking into account the difficulties of the case," assumed it directly to investigate, indicates the sentence. "When the congregation sees that the case is important, it refers to it and does not let anything be done to the bishop or the judge," the clergyman who reads the document during the recording explains to the victims.
However, the press release issued by the Bishopric to announce the sentence barely occupied a folio. He only spoke of "victims" in a generic way, without specifying that there were more cases besides the one publicly known. He did not give any details of the file and summed up the sentence in one sentence: "The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, having assessed all the evidence collected in the proceedings and the personal situation of the accused priest, has decreed sanction with the prohibition of the public exercise of the pastoral ministry ". He avoided mentioning the other points of the sentence that confirmed the seriousness of the case: prohibition to the condemned to wear the habit of priest, of "all contact with minors without the presence of an adult", compulsory residence in a place decided by the diocese and "the special obligation "of the bishop to maintain a" close watch "on the priest.