February 28, 2021

The last two abbots of Montserrat covered up the abuses of a monk denounced in 1999 | Society

The last two abbots of Montserrat covered up the abuses of a monk denounced in 1999 | Society

Miguel Hurtado, who accuses of abuses a montserrat friar, in a church in London, where he resides. In video, the testimony of Hurtado.

The last two abbots of the monastery of Montserrat, Sebastià Bardolet and the current one, Josep Maria Soler, knew since 1999 the denunciation of abuses of a minor against a monk, Andreu Soler, and they did not take any action. Only in 2000 the defendant was transferred to another center of the order, El Miracle, in Lleida, but the abbey recognizes, through its spokesman, Bernat Juliol, that he did not report it to the police, nor did he open any canonical procedure, according to the rules of the Church, nor did it notify the Vatican. This is despite the fact that the Holy See forced, since 2001, to communicate to Rome the allegations of abuse. Nor were the reasons for the transfer to the rest of the friars reported. This monk, who died in 2008, was a well-known personality in Catalonia, as he was the founder in 1959 of the group scout catholic of Montserrat, the Escoltes de Servei, or Els Nois de Servei, and its director for 40 years. The reasons for their departure were not explained to the families and members of the organization. The victim, Miguel Hurtado, who suffered the abuse when he was 16 years old and the friar had 65, has revealed his story for the first time to EL PAÍS. It will also appear in the documentary Soul searching, by Albert Solé, that Netflix will premiere next Friday. The monastery of Montserrat, following the questions of this newspaper and a Catalan media, has decided to publish a note acknowledging the facts this afternoon.

The monastery of Montserrat gave credibility to the accusations, although the monk denied the facts. The current abbot, Josep Maria Soler, met twice with Hurtado – the note of the sanctuary speaks of three encounters, but he denies it – and assured him that he believed him. "He told me that he had no doubts about what I was saying or about the damage he had suffered," says the victim. The abbey even paid him 7,200 euros as compensation for therapeutic help, a figure that Montserrat's press release has raised to 8,600. According to Hurtado, the difference is explained because they also paid the costs of their lawyer. In addition, he states that he was paid in black and with a commitment of silence from the victim, so that he would not reveal the scandal: "The only thing they have wanted to do has always been to cover it, and that has been worse than the abuse. Bearing in mind that for 40 years Soler was responsible for hundreds of minors I fear that I was not the only victim" Hurtado kept the secret for years, but ended up losing confidence in the abbey. Especially since the publisher of the monastery, already aware of the abuses, published in 2007 a book by Soler about his achievements and his career, with a foreword by Jordi Pujol, a great friend of his. Disappointed, Hurtado decided to return the money he had received.

The spokesman of the abbey, Bernat Juliol, recognizes the whole story of the facts of Hurtado, but makes nuances about the attitude of the monastery: "In no case has wanted to hide or hide anything, that should be clear, and the only thing we have always sought to help Hurtado in what he has asked us, with money and receiving him when he wanted to come, from the beginning we have been willing to welcome and listen. " He affirms that Soler always denied the accusations, that even so the precautionary measure was taken away from the pastoral activity and this has been the only complaint against him, and also the only one that has ever received the monastery against a friar. A canonical process should have established the veracity of the accusations, with a file or a conviction, but the abbot was limited to "an investigation".

"We did not denounce it because he himself, Hurtado, said he did not want to denounce it and we respect his decision," the spokesman said. But he denies it and explains that the abbot called his mother and convinced him not to file a complaint, given that with the transfer of Soler the case would not recur. "My mother told me that the abbot had congratulated him for not reporting, that he had made the right decision because they could solve it internally."

Regarding the 7,200 euros and the form of payment, Juliol alleges that the abbey preferred to leave that matter in the hands of their lawyers, and they decided the formula. He denies that he wanted to buy his silence, although he repeats that the management was of the lawyers. It notes that the abbot finally informed the Vatican in 2016, eight years after the death of the accused. However, no notification of the case is recorded in the Holy See. The monastery explains that it was verbal, in a conversation of the abbot with the prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which was then the German Gerhard Müller. When asked why they took this step in 2016, Juliol answered: "We thought it was good to know if we acted correctly and when we consulted, they said yes, it was not done before because there was a good relationship with Hurtado, there was nothing I had to go further. " The truth is that by then Hurtado had already warned that he would bring the case to light, after a meeting with the abbot in December 2015.

The story of Miguel Hurtado begins in 1997, when he was 15 years old and begins to frequent the weekends, spending the night there, the group scout of the Monserrat Abbey. The director of this youth association was Andreu Soler, famous figure of the sanctuary and of the Catalan civil society. "The abuse began when I was 16 years old and lasted a year, until I was able to stop it. He knew what he was doing, he had a very studied method, because at that time I had personal problems, I was more withdrawn, and he started to approach me. He was gaining my confidence as a reference adult, I was telling him my problems ". As the guys spent there over the weekend the conversations took place in the kitchen or common areas, but then they happened to be in the room. "There it happened to speak of neutral subjects to sexual subjects, and it began with the touching, when I was in pajamas. It was a very strong shock for me, because I was a believer. I could not believe it, I denied myself that this was happening. The day he tried to kiss me, put his tongue in my mouth, was the trigger to stop denying reality.

Hurtado stopped going to Montserrat, but decided to tell what happened to a trusted monk, Josep Maria Sanromà. He was still younger, he was 17 years old. As he relates, this friar confessed that he had already heard rumors about Soler. "But he advised me not to say anything to my parents and he told me he would talk to the abbot," he says. Years later he returned to meet with this religious and confirmed that at that time he had informed the abbot, Sebastià Bardolet, "to give him a touch, but did nothing." In May 2000 Bardolet was replaced at the head of the monastery by Josep Maria Soler It was that year, in October, when there was a small earthquake in the life of Montserrat: EL PAÍS published several pieces of information about the internal tensions in the abbey for the existence of homosexual behaviors and power struggles. This newspaper also revealed that Bardolet and the previous abbot, Cassià Just, had been dismissed as a result of Vatican inspections.

It was then, being of legal age, when Miguel Hurtado decided to tell his parents what had happened. His mother, outraged, wrote a letter to the new abbot. Just at that time the defendant, Andreu Soler, was transferred to another monastery. According to Hurtado, "rumors about him already existed, among the group's own colleagues scout It was said that you had to be careful because your hands were very long ". Two other friars were banished in the middle of the internal controversies, Hilari Raguer and Evangelista Vilanova, but because they were considered critical references among the monks. In fact, they came back later. The new abbot responded to the family of the victim with a letter, dated December 14, 2000, to which this newspaper has had access and can be consulted at the end of this text. In it announces the transfer of the monk, claims to have "awareness of the seriousness of what has happened" and that "thoroughly investigate this issue." He offered to meet with Hurtado, but he preferred to forget everything and focus on studies. Now he is a psychiatrist in London. The case was prescribed in 2003, explains Hurtado, when he turned 21, according to the laws then in force.

However, the wound did not close and in 2003, after re-entering into crisis, he decided to write a long letter to the abbot himself to tell him his case. In the letter he warned that the monastery had concealed a criminal, that they should have informed the police and demanded that they pay for psychological treatment. There was no response from the abbot, only from his lawyers, with a letter to which this newspaper has had access. They contacted Hurtado and negotiated a payment of 7,200 euros for therapy expenses. "But the form of payment was curious, I had to go three times to the office of their lawyers to give it to me in envelopes with 500 notes, two parts of 3,000 and one of 1,200, because then 3,000 was the limit to take money out of the bank without a trace, "he says.

Hurtado returned to his life and began to frequent therapy groups. He appeared in the media telling his case, but without revealing names or details. He began to overcome the trauma and this led him to write a second letter to the abbot. He met with him for the first time in September 2011. In his eagerness to close wounds, Hurtado also found himself in 2012 with Sanromà, that first friar to whom he reported his case. The monk confirmed that he had informed the previous abbot, and it was not easy: "He told me that he knew that if Andreu found out he would lose his hair, because he was able to denounce him with anything weird as he had done with others". He recognized that the scouts "They were an absolutely closed thing of Brother Soler, that nobody could get into".

However, the book of tribute to Andreu Soler published by the Abbey of Montserrat returned to cause a crisis to Hurtado. He discovered it by chance, looking for information on the Internet. L'escoltisme i Montserrat, of 153 pages, written by Soler himself, was published in 2007 on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the group scout. It included a DVD in which the founder was the protagonist. For that reason in 2015 he met again with the abbot, Josep Maria Soler, to express his outrage. The superior of Montserrat assured him that he knew nothing about the book and argued that the publisher of the monastery had autonomy. But he admitted that it was a mistake and promised to remove all existing copies. That second conversation was very tense and when he finished, Hurtado returned the 7,200 euros he had been paid in 2004. He did it right there, in a bundle of bills he had in an envelope. When he left he warned that one day he would make his case public. His last contact with Josep Maria Soler was an email in January 2016, to which EL PAÍS has had access, in which the abbot communicated the withdrawal of the book and the donation of the money to two NGOs.

If you know of any case of sexual abuse that has not seen the light, write us with your complaint to [email protected]

"The abbot confessed to me that my denunciation did not take him by surprise, that there were rumors since the seventies"

MIguel Hurtado met twice with the current abbot of Montserrat, Josep Maria Soler, in 2011 and in 2015, to discuss his complaint against the monk Andreu Soler. The first was when time had passed, the accused had died and Hurtado considered himself capable of dealing with the issue. Remember that it was a conciliatory tone. The abbot confessed that his predecessor in charge, Sebastià Bardolet, had not done anything after the complaint and that he "had to assume the previous browns". He also assured him that the friar denied the accusations. That "relativized a lot" what happened and "I was not very aware of what I had done". Moreover, he never accepted exile and his relationship with him cooled. He also told him that the decision to remove him from Montserrat led him to a confrontation with members of the scouts, who tried to avoid it. The friar to whom Hurtado reported the case for the first time, Josep Maria Sanromà, also confided in 2012 that Els Nois de Servei "protected Brother Andreu to extremes that I could not imagine".

The abbot admitted that he had received rumors of Soler's background, but never came to check anything and that he had no record of more cases. He acknowledged that the first case management from 2003, through lawyers for the payment of compensation, was perhaps cold and not the luckiest one.

The second conversation in 2015 was more tense. Hurtado was outraged because the monastery had published a book extolling Soler's work and had become very critical of Montserrat's attitude. He harassed the abbot's questions and brought to light details he did not know. He asked why he had not complied with the Vatican guidelines of 2001, which obliged him to report the case to the Holy See. Josep Maria Soler justified it "because Brother Andreu was very delicate in health". In insisting on whether he actually investigated the defendant, he admitted that he "half-heartedly acknowledged the accusations, admitted that he had kissed me, that he had been excessively affectionate toward me, that he did not say there was nothing, but he minimized what he had done." Even so, the abbot said that when he banished him he told her clearly that he was "for abusing a minor and for other things," which he did not specify. The version of the Montserrat spokesperson is that Andreu Soler "never recognized anything".

Hurtado says that the abbot then revealed that there had been suspicions about Soler for years: "He confessed to me that there were rumors that he had homosexual relations with young people since the seventies, on the weekends he organized in Santa Cecilia, another campus of Montserrat ". Moreover, he maintains that the abbot told him that he himself, who was then a monk, reported these gossip to the abbot of the time, Cassià Just. But, he told her, he never knew if he investigated it or not. "That's why he acknowledged that when I reported he was not caught by surprise because he already knew the rumors, what is incredible is that he has still been in charge of minors for 40 years", laments Hurtado. He has created an email address so that other possible victims of abuse in Montserrat may contact him: [email protected]


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