Spain’s ombudsman (‘Defensor del Pueblo’ in Spanish) has said that an independent commission set up a year ago to investigate historic sex abuse by the Catholic Church has collected testimonies from 445 victims, as the nation tackles an issue other European countries acted on long ago.
Spain’s parliament voted on 10 March 2022 to open the first official investigation, led by ombudsman Ángel Gabilondo, into the extent of sexual abuse committed by priests and church officials. The government was forced to act after allegations of abuse involving more than 1,200 victims were published in Spanish newspaper El País, provoking public outrage. ALSO READ: Spanish Congress backs move for inquiry into child abuse in Catholic Church.
Testimonies were still being collected and an update would be issued in parliament before the current government’s term expires this year, Gabilondo’s office said in a statement. Although ‘satisfied’ with the number of victims who felt able to come forward, ‘what really matters is to listen to the victims … with respect, seriousness, discretion and confidentiality’, it added.
A Madrid-based law firm is conducting a parallel inquiry ordered by the Spanish Episcopal Conference, which for years rejected the idea of taking a comprehensive approach to investigating sex abuse. ALSO READ: Spain’s Catholic Church asks law firm to investigate allegations of child abuse.
In a sign that bishops may yet to have fully cooperated with the government-ordered probe, the Spanish ombudsman said that a year after receiving his mandate, ‘we are requesting the collaboration of different levels of the Catholic Church and we hope to be able to count on it soon’.
Only a handful of countries have had government-initiated or parliamentary inquiries into abuse like Spain’s.
The most extensive took place in Australia and found in 2017 that 7% of Catholic priests were accused of abusing minors between 1980 and 2010. Judge-led investigations in Ireland from 2005 impacted the Catholic Church’s once-dominant influence in Irish society and politics.
And in France, an independent inquiry estimated in 2021 that some 330,000 children were victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy or other Catholic-affiliated lay employees from 1950-2020.
In Portugal, an expert panel said last month that more than 4,800 individuals may have been victims of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church.
ALSO READ: Former Spanish priest sentenced to 30 years for abusing minors.
📸 El @DefensorPuebloE ha presidido hoy una nueva reunión de la Comisión Asesora sobre abusos sexuales en el ámbito de la Iglesia— Defensor del Pueblo (@DefensorPuebloE) March 10, 2023
En el encuentro se han comenzado a perfilar los asuntos que compondrán el informe que se presentará al @CongresoEs https://t.co/A7m51sGxwL pic.twitter.com/ItcKPNgbSK
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It would be more accurate to say “sex abuse by Catholic clerics (or clergy)” rather than “sex abuse by the Catholic Church.” The abuses were committed by individuals, not by the institution of the Church.
I recommend you double check what percentage of the Spanish Catholic clergy committed these offenses. By saying “the Catholic Church” you have implied that it was the entire church, or a majority of the church’s clergy. That is profoundly unjust to the innocent majority of the clergy.