The devout Catholics who uncovered the network of pedophile priests

An order from the Vatican led two fervent faithful to uncover a cruel network of pederasty in Colombia with 38 alleged aggressors. The priests came to rotate one of the victims in a plot that has already reached the ears of the Holy See.

Until Villavicencio, a city of half a million inhabitants 123 kilometers from Bogotá with a cathedral in the central square, the instruction of Pope Francis arrived.

In 2019 Bishop Óscar Urbina was in charge, at the request of the pope, of investigating possible sexual abuse committed by priests.

The prelate relied on Olga Cristancho (68 years old) and Socorro Martínez (59): the first, a seasoned ex-prosecutor and the other, a former official from the Attorney General’s Office with experience in investigating massacres.

Soon after, they left Urbina with the suspicion that he was covering for the priests, and they set out to investigate on their own. "never crossed my mind" what he would discover, Cristancho confesses to AFP in an interview.

There are at least 20 victims. The scandal grew with the book "This is the lamb of God" journalist Juan Pablo Barrientos, whom they have tried to censor.

Barrientos delved into the findings of the two investigators and last year published the testimonies and clues that implicate 38 priests of the Archdiocese of Villavicencio in abusive acts or carnal access.

The Church discreetly separated 20 of them and two more are in prison.

Some are accused of even inducing one of the victims to "prostitution"Father William Prieto confirmed to AFP.

"It will be up to the courts, both civil and canonical, to give a verdict"adds the spokesman for the Archdiocese.

The prosecution declined to speak about the processes that affect the powerful Church in a country with a Catholic majority.

"they were rotated"

In Villavicencio, Cristancho keeps a plaster Virgin Mary in the garden of his house. she still feels "shocked" for the abuses he helped uncover.

As a prosecutor, he had unmasked Luis Alfredo Garavito, the biggest sexual predator and murderer of minors in Colombia (172 victims).

Retired, she accepted Bishop Urbina’s invitation. "He told me to comply with some very specific and very important guidelines that His Holiness had given"evokes

Along with his partner, he collected the "evidence" in the style of "spot light"the award-winning film that reconstructs the journalistic investigation in the United States on pedophile priests.

She remembers with emotion one of the victims who told her how the priests rotated him from the age of 15.

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Between them they handled a password, "it was a CD (compact disc)". One told another "there I send him that CD, but (in reality) it was like ‘there I send that boy that you can make him an offer (…) and he will surely accept it due to the needs he has’"recounts.

The two women sent the Vatican the results of their investigations, and are still awaiting a response.

Under the same papal directive, the Church in France revealed that some 216,000 minors were victims of priests between 1950 and 2020.


Miguel (not his real name) used to spend his vacations in Villavicencio as a child. He remembers that his family liked him to go to the parish house where his priestly uncle lived.

There was his abuser, a seminarian who manipulated him into giving or receiving fellatio.

"He knew how to manage trust with my uncle, trust with my family, so that I went (…) to the sheets" with him, he tells AFP, hiding his face.

As an adult, while studying law, he understood that his memories were those of abuse. he fell into "shock". At 26 years old, she abhors aggression. She had, she says, "ultraviolent attitudes" and depressive pictures.

He filed a complaint with the Archdiocese without receiving a response.

"I wanted to end my life, I couldn’t find a reason (…) I felt dirty"Add.

AFP tried unsuccessfully to contact Bishop Urbina by phone and WhatsApp.


Socorro Martínez, the ex-prosecutor’s quixotic companion, avoids going to the cathedral that she visited every Sunday.

"I hardly go anywhere", loose fearfully. One of his children received a call telling him that his mother was a "sapa" (reporter).

"They [los miembros del arzobispado] they do consider me their enemy, because I revealed that information (…) We were the stone in their shoe"adds the penalist.

On January 27, Martínez and Cristancho testified before a prosecutor investigating these sexual assaults.

So far only one of the victims, abused as a 13-year-old altar boy, has found justice. A priest and a seminarian pay jail for this case.

Some priests involved in the plot have unsuccessfully filed seven legal actions to remove Barrientos’ book from circulation.

"They admit nothing, they deny everything (…) there is no justice, there is no truth, there is no reparation"regrets the journalist who dared to remove the secrets of the Church.

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