The bishops of Venezuela suspended the priest Luis Alberto Mosquera, who was found guilty of sexual abuse against children, and reopened the investigation.

The bishops of Venezuela suspended the priest Luis Alberto Mosquera, who was found guilty of sexual abuse against children, and reopened the investigation.
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CARACAS, Venezuela – The Catholic Church in Venezuela has reopened an investigation into a priest who was found guilty of sexually abusing a child but was later reinstated.

The announcement came two weeks after The Washington Post reported on the priest’s case. Luis Alberto Mosquera, priest of the state of Lara, Venezuela. Mosquera, 63, was convicted of abusing a six-year-old boy in 2006 and sentenced to more than seven years in prison, but was released in 2008 and allowed by the church to finish his work as a priest. A photo posted on his Facebook page in 2016 and republished in 2017 shows him surrounded by children.

Mosquera’s case was one of 10 Allegations of child sexual abuse are being investigated by The Post for a report published in June. In half of the cases between 2001 and 2022, The Post found, convicted priests were released early or served no prison time at all. In at least three cases, they were allowed to return to the ministry.

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Bishop Mario del Valle Moronta Rodríguez, first vice president of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, told reporters in Caracas on Wednesday that Mosquera had been removed from ministry while the investigation was reopened. It was not clear whether the church was investigating the new allegations or reviewing the incident for which he was prosecuted.

“I cannot tell you the exact date because I am not the bishop of Barquisimeto, but it has been temporarily suspended,” Moronta said.

Mosquera confirmed to The Post that he was suspended on June 29, eight days after The Post report was published.

“Due to the publications of the American newspaper “The Washington Post” and the pressure of a number of NGOs and human rights defenders… the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Barquisimeto, the Church, for the crime defined by the Code of Canon Laws and in favor of the state, decided to suspend my church licenses,” said Mosquera, in Lara in a message he also shared with church members.

“I declare my willingness to submit to the process with obedience, silence and humility, and I affirm my faithfulness to the faith of the Catholic Church even in these unpleasant circumstances,” he said. “I invite you to persevere in the same faith.”

“There was no complaint and yet I was subjected to public humiliation,” Mosquera told The Post. “But I still remain calm, cool and patient.”

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Bishops held an unusual press conference on Wednesday to discuss the church’s response to allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

Moronta, the bishop of San Cristóbal, has announced an investigation into another priest who returned to ministry after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in Falcon province. He said the church was conducting a “serious investigation” into the other cases, but would share the results only if requested by civil authorities because “privacy is the norm of the church.”

Moronta opened the press conference by reading from a long statement. He said the bishops are committed to “making our churches safe places for everyone” through “various initiatives” against abuse. He did not describe actions against bishops who did not report cases to the Vatican.

Moronta said the bishops have created a prevention committee made up of bishops, priests, nuns and “committed experts in the field”. He did not provide further information.

“We always know we can do more, and we are willing to do it synergistically with other agencies,” he said.

Venezuelan and international journalists asked questions about specific cases. Moronta did not elaborate.

“The fact that some bishops or religious leaders may not have taken appropriate steps does not mean that there is no fault,” he said. He then left the room with three other church officials.

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Victor Hernández, who said he was abused by a priest, called the press conference “terrible.” The bishops were “obviously upset,” he said.

“They have no idea how many cases there are,” Hernández said. “That’s why they kept dodging the question,” he said.

After The Post’s report was published, at least five people contacted the newspaper to share other cases. Most said they were dissatisfied with the bishops’ response.

Moronta suggested that the church was unfairly singled out for criticism.

“It is interesting that they are not investigating us, but other institutions where the number of sexual abuses is higher, not only religious, but also professional institutions.” “I’m not condoning anything – we take responsibility – but there are other places where these things happen and nobody says anything.”

Samantha Schmidt in Minneapolis contributed this report.

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