Mexican bishops back repeal of statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 22, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- The Church in Mexico has expressed its support for several bills to eliminate the statute of limitations for the sexual abuse of minors, which stands now at ten years. The bills were introduced in the country’s Federal Congress and would only apply to future, not past cases. 

The Mexican bishops do not anticipate that reported abuse cases will be comparable in number to those seen by the Church in the United States, and the Church in Mexico has not seen lawsuits filed on a comparable level.

Speaking to ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language news partner, Bishop Alfonso Miranda Guardiola, secretary general of the Mexican bishops' conference, said the country's bishops support lawmakers' efforts to eliminate the statute of limitations for the sexual abuse of minors and have been “respectfully proposing to members of the House and Senate to introduce this kind of proposal.”

“These new legislative proposals are a good thing for the nation,” he said, since “they are legal instruments to take actions, correct, eradicate the evil, care for the victims and prosecute the perpetrators,” Miranda said.

Mexico's House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill Feb. 6.  That bill would the Federal Criminal Code to sanction public officials who “cover up” the sexual abuse of minors. Anyone found guilty would be expelled from office and barred from holding public office in the future. 

The bill also eliminates the statute of limitations for public officials and has been sent on to the Senate for approval. 

Various legislators have also filed bills to eliminate the statute of limitations for pedophilia, including  pro-life senator Lilly Téllez, a member of President López Obrador's National Regeneration Movement Party (Morena). 

Téllez posted on Twitter that her proposal also seeks to double the sentence for child abusers with a close relationship to the victim. 

The senator's bill also states that abusers “lose any legal rights he or she has with the victim” and that “local legislatures would have to adjust their laws to comply with the aims of the initiative.”

Bishop Miranda called the sexual abuse of minors “a cancer worldwide” and said it occurs in the Church as well as “in the family, in one's own home, in education, sports, the arts, and many other environments.” 

“When an abuser does not face a civil criminal trial, possible new victims are put at risk, inside or outside the Church,” Miranda said.

Noting that a canonical trial can result in the laicization of an abuser priest, Miranda said that, if the statute of limitations prevents civil authorities from acting, the perpetrator “goes free with the possibility of getting into school or work environments etc. and putting new victims at risk.”

“We are very pleased with the progress these bills are making in the legislatures ,” Miranda said, “and reiterated that “those changes will help protect children, avoid abuse by whoever — a priest or in the family or school environment — and contribute to the healthy development of children.

A version of the story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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