A priest in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca has been sentenced to 16 years and 6 months in prison for sexual abuse, marking the first ever conviction of a Catholic clergyman for such crimes in the country.
Father Gerardo Silvestre Hernandez, a priest in the Archdiocese of Antequera Oaxaca, was convicted in January of corrupting minors while serving as a priest in a remote indigenous village of Oaxaca. His sentence was made public Feb. 24, Mexican media reported.
Father Silvestre was found guilty of plying his victims with alcohol, showing them pornographic films and then sexually abusing them.
The crimes took place in 2009 and 2010, according to court documents, Mexican media reported, although other accusations were reported earlier. A coalition of nongovernmental groups known as the Oaxaca Childhood Forum alleged there have been other victims, too.
Silvestre was arrested 2013 and had been detained since then. The case against the priest has received national media attention in Mexico as stories surfaced of the accusations against him being sent to the Vatican and archdiocesan delays in reporting the allegations to civil authorities.
The forum posted documents on social media dated Feb. 17, 2011, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stating an investigation found no evidence of Father Silvestre committing the crimes alleged. It also stated Archbishop Jose Luis Chavez Botello of Antequera, Oaxaca, acted in a timely and proper manner upon learning of the accusations.
Church observers have said the subject of clergy sexual abuse had been neglected by Catholics in Mexico or was seen as a problem in other countries, and that only in recent years has the issue started receiving proper attention.
The Pontifical University of Mexico recently inaugurated a child and youth protection center.
The court also ordered Father Silvestre to pay $3,800 in damages and reparations. In Mexico, however, victims are unable to take legal actions against dioceses as employers cannot be held responsible for the inappropriate actions of individual employees.