Pixelated photo of the under-investigation priest. SUR
Church put Father Fran in charge of two Malaga parishes despite four warnings about his behaviour

Church put Father Fran in charge of two Malaga parishes despite four warnings about his behaviour

The priest was arrested on 11 September on suspicion of sedating and sexually assaulting women and now more details of what the bishopric knew, and when, have since come to light

Juan Cano


Wednesday, 4 October 2023, 14:09


The protective wall that the Church has tried to build to protect itself against the scandal caused by Father Fran, the Malaga priest accused of raping unconscious women who he allegedly drugged has been falling apart little by little since the shocking news came to light.

At first, different voices from within the Malaga diocese tried to use the media to maintain that the transfer of the priest was due to an illness and the Church has claimed that it was not aware of the very serious events that are now under investigation.

The case is full of nuances and is therefore subject to various interpretations. However, the story of Father Fran, the priest arrested on 11 September on suspicion of sedating and sexually assaulting women, started in January 2023 in the Santa María Micaela church in Melilla. A young woman who said she was the priest's ex-partner claimed she found a series of images of a sexual nature in the home she shared with him.

Although Father Fran's allegedly criminal activities caught much of the ecclesiastical community by surprise, the Church received up to four detailed warnings about his alleged behaviour before police began their investigations.

Head of Yunquera and El Burgo parishes

Despite this, the bishopric of Malaga put Father Fran at the head of the parishes of Yunquera and El Burgo in April – when the young woman had already told the Santa María Micaela church that she had found the images – where he remained until the day of his arrest.

The first of those warnings was on the morning of 6 January, Three Kings Day. Father Fran's then girlfriend told a priest from the Santa María Micaela church that she was in a relationship with the Malaga priest and she revealed the bombshell that she had found a computer hard drive containing images of sexual assaults that Father Fran had allegedly committed on what appeared to be unconscious women.

The young woman made this accusation verbally and did not show the Church the files that she would deliver, in August, to the National Police investigators who would end up arresting the priest. Father Fran denied the accusation and alleged that he only had a few videos of a bachelor party, but nothing illegal.

Removed from Melilla

The Melilla priest encouraged the young woman to report Father Fran to police. However, the Bishop of Malaga, Jesús Catalá, reacted by removing the priest from Melilla.

The girl repeated her claim again in May, when her communication with Father Fran apparently was definitively cut off. She also repeated her warning to the priests of Melilla, and sent an email to the bishopric later that month. In the email, she requested an appointment with the Bishop of Malaga, Jesús Catalá, to tell him about “a crime” committed by Father Fran “that had nothing to do with the relationship”.

The bishopric replied to this email indicating that, to grant her an appointment, she must first detail, in writing, what she accused the Malaga priest of. She replied to that email in late June insisting on having a meeting with Catalá.

Desire to continue being a priest

While this was happening, the bishopric had kept Father Fran from active duties. However, in April, coinciding with Easter, the bishop had a new conversation with Father Fran, who – according to the sources consulted – expressed his desire to continue being a priest. It was then that Catalá sent him to Yunquera and El Burgo.

Sources from the ecclesiastical community, trying to find an explanation for this decision, pointed out that the bishop often received similar information on other members of the clergy “most of it unfounded”.

Other sources said: “We were not aware of serious criminal proceedings. We are the first to feel cheated by him and surprised by the seriousness of the crimes”.

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