Priest Jailed for Sexually Abusing Minor Seminarian

News: World News
by Jules Gomes  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 23, 2023   

Archbishops covered up spiritual director at minor seminary for 12 years

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TOLEDO, Spain (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Spanish court has sentenced Fr. Pedro Francisco Rodríguez Ramos to seven years in prison for repeated sexual abuse of a seminarian in the Toledo archdiocese's minor seminary.

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Fr. Pedro Francisco Rodríguez Ramos

In its sentence announced on Oct. 19, the provincial court of León also fined Fr. Ramos 40,000 euros for abusing the 14-year-old seminarian from 2005 and 2007 while the priest was spiritual director at the Santo Tomás Villanueva minor seminary in Toledo.

The prosecutor slammed the Church for "preferring to remain silent," even though the current bishop and his predecessor had known about the predator priest for at least 12 years after the seminarian and his mother complained to the diocese in 2008. 

During the trial, Ramos confirmed that the victim and the victim's mother had filed a complaint against him "through the [seminary] rector in 2009."

Instead of disciplining the priest, the ordinary at the time, Abp. Braulio Rodríguez Plaza, sent the priest to a seminary in Peru on several occasions, according to El Pais, which first exposed the predator priest in 2021. 

The current archbishop, Francisco Cerro Chaves, sacked Ramos after the Spanish media outlet broke the story, even though the archdiocese refused to clarify exactly when it opened a canonical process against the priest or its outcome.

Instead, the archdiocese claimed it only became aware of the case in June 2016, when a complaint was filed in court. Moreover, the archbishop of Toledo told the victim's mother that "what her son was saying was due to 'his disturbed affections' and that he would keep him in prayer."

However, in 2015, the archdiocese removed Fr. Ramos from his position as the seminary's spiritual director and appointed him as rector of the church of San Ildefonso and Sanctuary of the Sacred Hearts of Toledo.

The accused's behavior was one of sustained seduction.

From January to May 2020, the predator priest was sent to the seminary of Moyobamba in Peru, which also trains minors and is linked to the archdiocese of Toledo. Later that year, Abp. Chaves appointed Ramos as a member of the vicariate for the clergy.

According to court documents, Ramos began grooming the victim in 2004, when the seminarian was 12 years old. Ramos became his spiritual director, confessor and confidant "as a result of the rejection and harassment he suffered from several of his classmates." 


 

From 2005 to 2007, the priest had "constant" encounters with the seminarian and, "with the intention of satisfying his sexual desires," abused him sexually on various occasions, the court found.

In 2005, the abuse took place "at night, when his companions were asleep." The priest asked his victim to sit on his lap, hugged him and kissed him on the face.

The priest began to embrace him, kiss him and caress his buttocks.

In 2006, he kissed him on the mouth for the first time, they went on to caress each other, they slept together one night, and in July, during the meeting of families held in Valencia on the occasion of Pope Benedict XVI's visit, they slept on the beach, where "the priest began to embrace him, kiss him and caress his buttocks," the court noted.

A week later, Ramos took his victim to a retreat in a convent in La Bañeza, where he fondled his genitals and forced him into oral sex.

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Mass celebrated at Toledo's minor seminary

Over the following months, there were further incidents of fondling and masturbation. "The acts consisting of kissing, fondling and touching took place until the summer of 2007," the court observed.

The sexual abuse caused the victim "an anxious depressive disorder for which he had to be medically treated on several occasions and which persists despite treatment."

When the victim confronted the priest about his actions, Ramos "told him that it was not a sin and not to tell anyone," the verdict stated.

"The accused's behavior was one of sustained seduction, taking advantage of the minor's age and vulnerability and increasing the intensity of the abuse," it added.

The court concluded that

throughout the proceedings, the complainant maintained essentially the same version of the alleged facts. His testimony was rich in detail and, at least from the point of view of immediacy, entirely credible. We did not find any doubts, contradictions, instability or evidence of motives of resentment or revenge in his testimony at the trial. 

We did not find any doubts, contradictions, instability or evidence of motives of resentment or revenge in his testimony.

The seminarian, who has had to wait seven years for the trial and sentence since he officially reported the facts, has also filed a complaint with the Vatican to investigate the negligence and possible cover-up of the case by the archdiocese of Toledo.

Responding to the sentence on Thursday in a press statement, the archdiocese said it would "respect the ruling of the competent judicial authority." 

However, the archdiocese noted that the verdict was "not yet final," and further judicial actions were foreseen "since both parties expressed their willingness to appeal the ruling if it were unfavorable for their case."

The diocese also said that the court had dismissed the case against Ramos four times. It insisted that the complainant had never approached the diocesan ecclesiastical authority to present a formal accusation at the canonical headquarters against the priest in question.

The canonical procedure is currently under the supervision of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and has not yet been concluded, out of respect for the timing of the courts, the diocese added.

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