The Archbishop of Barcelona, Juan José Omella, will appear in a court in July charged with falsifying documents in the case of a man expelled from the priesthood for allegedly fathering a child.

Driving the news

Miquel Ángel Barco told El País he learned of the 2017 Vatican decision to dismiss him from the clerical state directly from Cardinal Omella.

While he handed over the final decision, however, Barco alleges that the Archbishop of Barcelona refused to hand over the exact accusations against him out of “delicacy and respect”, and refused too to send to Rome Barco’s defence against the accusations, consisting of an affidavit signed by the mother of the child he is alleged to have fathered and a negative paternity test.

“[Omella] hid the documents knowingly and with reckless disregard for the truth”, said Barco.

The intrigue

Barco says the accusations against him are being driven by a power struggle that dates back to 2014, when Barco was accused of the sexual abuse of a deacon with whom he lived.

Omella intervened in the Vatican investigation of Barco’s then-bishop, Manuel Ureña of Zaragoza, who was accused of having covered-up the abuse allegations by paying 60,000 euros in hush money to the deacon victim.

Why it matters

Cardinal Omella is considered to be one of Pope Francis’ closest allies in the Spanish Church, with a strong reputation for a “zero tolerance” approach to abuse in the Church.

Omella has been a member of the powerful Vatican Congregation for Bishops since 2014, Archbishop of Barcelona since 2015 and cardinal since 2017.