The faithful in Spain are commenting on the publication of a special report by an independent commission of the Spanish Ombudsman. The document contains truths that are inconvenient for the Church, including the testimonies of almost five hundred priest victims. The report, which is over 700 pages long, shows that of the country’s 39 million adult population, about 0.6 percent, or 200,000 people, were victims of sexual abuse by priests as children.
Many people have been waiting for this for years. At the moment of official recognition by the state of wrongs that no one wanted to hear about. – For me, as a victim, this is the end of the road that aimed at recognizing at the national and parliamentary level the existence of a series of abuses by the Catholic Church. This puts an end to the impunity, silence and all immorality of this institution – argues Fernando Garcia-Salmones, a victim of harassment. We are talking about the report of the independent commission of the Spanish Ombudsman, which was commissioned by the parliament a year ago. The data presented therein is shocking.
The report, which is over 700 pages long, shows that of the country’s 39 million adult population, about 0.6 percent, or 200,000 people, were victims of sexual abuse by priests as children. Another 200,000 people may have been molested by laypeople working in institutions supervised by the Catholic Church. This is more than one percent of adult Spaniards today.
The data was based on surveys conducted by the commission among 800,000 citizens of the country. The document also includes testimonies from 487 victims who recount the emotional price they paid. Some people never recovered from it. – I insist that perpetrators associated with the Church should not be treated as ordinary perpetrators of violence. These people use the entire authority of this institution and thus build trust. The child thinks he is safe, appeals Fernando Garcia-Salmones.
The problem turned out to be so big that it requires systemic solutions. The Spanish Commissioner for Human Rights proposed the creation of a state fund that would provide financial compensation to the victims. Contrary to the episcopate’s assurances in February 2022, the Spanish Church was not interested in helping to prepare the report. Independent experts have encountered hostility from bishops in some dioceses. – Dioceses and religious orders should allow investigators access to documentation and allow experts to conduct a full analysis of the archives. Starting with the most serious crimes, through everything that is in the files of church courts – says Angel Gabilondo, former Minister of Education.
The Prime Minister’s voice
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said that what has just been submitted to parliament is a milestone for the country’s democracy. – We are a better country because the reality that everyone has known for many years, but no one talked about, has been revealed. At least not in the sense in which we do it today, says Pedro Sanchez, Prime Minister of Spain.
The official investigation into child sexual abuse in the Spanish Catholic Church followed an investigation by the newspaper El Pais that began in 2018. Since then, a database has been created containing more than 1,200 alleged incidents of harassment spanning almost 50 years.
A report containing the findings of that investigation was published in 2021. There were 251 perpetrators associated with the Church. The results of the investigation were then forwarded to the Vatican. By decision of Pope Francis, Spanish dioceses were to establish local commissions to consider individual complaints.
Main photo source: Reuters