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Granada judge details altar boy abuse

Ten clergymen and two laypeople are under investigation in pedophilia case

The house in Pinos Genil (Granada) where some of the abuse allegedly took place. Ampliar foto
The house in Pinos Genil (Granada) where some of the abuse allegedly took place.

The judge investigating a pedophilia case involving a number of priests in Granada has lifted the sealing order, exposing a harsh tale of sexual abuse allegedly committed against teenage altar boys.

The main victim, who is now 24, wrote to Pope Francis last year detailing his ordeal, and the pontiff personally phoned him to apologize in the name of the Catholic Church and to announce an internal investigation.

A second victim who was named in the letter came forward soon afterwards to confirm the allegations.

The judge considers that the suspects may be guilty of sexual aggression and abuse, but he has given all parties 10 days to pronounce on whether the statute of limitations may apply given that a decade has elapsed since the alleged abuse took place.

If the victim resisted a demand, the priest would say things like: “I am your father; you have to let go”

In a five-page brief, Judge Antonio Moreno Marín summed up the activities of the so-called Romanones clan, named after its alleged ringleader Román Martínez, a parish priest who officiated Mass in Granada. Nine other clergymen and two laypeople, including a religion teacher, are believed to have either participated in the abuse or consented to it.

The document reflects testimony by the young man to the effect that the aggression began in 2004, when he was 14 years old. He and a friend had been altar boys at the Church of San Juan de Vianney since the age of seven, so they were not surprised when the parish priest, Román Martínez, asked them over to a house he owned in the nearby town of Cenes de la Vega.

The young man said he was asked to sleep over and watch a movie, because Martínez and the other priests saw “a great calling to the priesthood” in him and believed that he should “share their lifestyle.”

“When the plaintiff stayed overnight, R. [Román] proposed sharing a bed even though there were empty ones available. Faced with an initial refusal, R. told him that he was going to sever the father-son-like relationship between them, and the latter consented [...] after feeling physically and psychologically pressured,” reads the court brief.

That was the first step. Another night the priest asked the altar boy to give him a relaxing massage. Román Martínez was “completely naked.” The document goes on to list explicit sex scenes – necessary to determine with what kind of crime to charge the defendant: sexual aggression or sexual abuse.

Every time the young man resisted a new demand, the priest would say things like: “I am your father; you have to let yourself go; you are not dealing with your own sexuality properly.” He also threatened to throw the youth out of the congregation if he failed to bow to his desires.

On two occasions between 2006 and 2007, Father Román allegedly tried to practice anal penetration on his victim after giving him oil rubs. “You must live out your sexuality openly,” he was told.

A cleaner removes spray paint on the walls of the Granada parish church whose priest is accused of abusing teenage altar boys.
A cleaner removes spray paint on the walls of the Granada parish church whose priest is accused of abusing teenage altar boys. EFE

Two other members of the ring allegedly masturbated the youth and “repeatedly practiced anal and oral sex with R. and with each other” in his presence. They also made him watch pornography to make him feel that what he was seeing “was normal.”

The group would also “walk around naked around the swimming pool” and kiss, stroke and massage one another. This has been confirmed by three other youngsters whose testimony was included in the case.

The second main victim testified that he was asked out to another property in El Zaidín, where group members would kiss one another and justify it by saying that they were “like family.” Father Román gave him massages, allegedly to help him with his back pain. This young man is now undergoing psychological treatment, the court document notes.

Two other witnesses said they went to the house with the swimming pool, where Román Martínez asked one of them to sleep with him and stroked him as he watched television; the fourth youth said that Father Román attempted to feel him up while he was taking a shower.

The judge adds that the group held significant collective wealth, including several properties that are under investigation.