Quoting sources from the criminal investigation underway, Spanish national daily El País has reported that the Granada Catholic circle — the group of priests in Granada accused of sexually abusing at last one child — behaved like a sinister sect, trapping young boys within their circle and grooming them for sex.
Of the 10 priests and two laypersons who have been accused by one alleged victim, with the possibility that more witnesses may come forward, the group is said to have had a leader, specifically one of the three priests suspended from their duties on Monday in light of the court investigation.
Investigators are focusing on a parish church in the Granada district of Zaidín, where, the newspaper explains, the group leader worked and boys were allegedly drawn into the paedophiles’ sphere of influence by being taken on as altar boys or assistants.
According to the court sources, the priests would try to brainwash these children in secret meetings, at which sexual matters were discussed and the boys encouraged to perform sexual acts with the adults, who assured them that there was no sin in such encounters. The case notes also describe how the adult members of the group also engaged in sexual activity among themselves.
The religious group, known locally as Los Romanones, a reference to the name of their alleged leader, would transport the minors to flats and a house in Granada, as well as several coastal properties, to carry out their alleged crimes.
The alleged victim who has reported the offenses is today a 24-year-old teacher who has conserved his religious beliefs, according to El País. According to sources who have had access to his testimony, the victim says he was abused between the ages of 13 and 17.
The victim received several telephone calls from Pope Francis, who offered his support and asked for forgiveness for these crimes in the name of the Catholic faith. The pope has encouraged Catholic authorities around the world to take stronger action against the sexual abuse of children within the Church. In this case, the alleged victim wrote to Pope Francis to report his ordeal after the Granada church hierarchy had ignored his complaints.
Pope Francis is reported to consider the suspension of only three priests as an insufficient reaction and has called the archbishop of Granada, Francisco Javier Martínez, to Rome in order to discuss the scandal. The role of the seven priests who remain in their posts is said by investigation sources to have been lesser in terms of the sex abuse, but they could be guilty of covering up the crimes and helping the three paedophiles to procure their victims.
According to the alleged victim’s testimony, at least one other boy suffered similar abuse, while he also mentions the use of a girl by the circle, possibly as bait to draw in male victims.