The Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) stands out from the investigation that the Spanish Church faces in 251 cases of pedophilia, as a result of the report delivered by EL PAÍS in the Vatican and the president of the Spanish bishops, Cardinal Juan José Omella. A spokesperson assures, a day and a half after being made public, not knowing anything about how it is going to proceed, or how it is going to be organized, or what the times are, or if precautionary measures will be taken against those accused still active. He explains that it is the Vatican who is in charge of the investigation and must answer these questions, since the competent entity to investigate is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body that centralizes the control of these crimes. “The EEC has no competence to investigate,” he reasons. This position clashes with that of the Holy See, which after receiving the dossier supervises the investigation of the Spanish Church. This newspaper has found that in the Vatican it is surprising that the EEC does not adhere to the canonical rules, which clearly indicate that whoever receives complaints has the duty to initiate an investigation. Cardinal Omella, upon receiving the report, immediately handed it over to the ecclesiastical court of Barcelona, where he is archbishop, and began his investigation. Although the report includes 31 dioceses and 31 religious orders, which are competent for the investigations and where they should be derived. For their part, most religious orders, which are affected by 77% of the cases in the report, are already investigating it. The EEC has always refused to undertake a review of the past and rejects an independent truth commission such as the one created in France, Germany and other countries.
Along the same lines, the EEC declines to coordinate the investigation of the 251 new cases reported by this newspaper because “we understand that EL PAÍS will send the report to the dioceses and religious congregations.” In fact, in a note the entity asks that “the same information is also delivered to the offices of protection of minors and prevention of abuse that are in the dioceses and congregations.” “We do not know what the Doctrine of the Faith is going to do,” concludes this spokesman, who insists that they have no planned action and hope that the Vatican body will do so. In the meantime, more than 30 new messages have arrived to the email denouncing abuse from EL PAÍS since Sunday.
There is great confusion because the bishops’ own station, the Cope network, published an article on its website this morning that said exactly the opposite, with the headline “The Spanish Church will investigate the latest abuse allegations as it has been doing for more ten years “. The text says that “the Spanish dioceses will carefully study the list of complaints of alleged abuses against 251 priests and some laity of religious institutions presented. (…) In the first instance, the investigation does not correspond directly to the Vatican, but to the 31 dioceses and 31 religious orders affected by the complaints ”.
The response of the EEC, in the midst of an internal fracture between the bishops who are in favor of tackling the problem at once and those who choose to deny it, is totally opposite to that of the majority of religious orders, to which this newspaper He has already delivered the list of defendants that concern them and they reacted quickly. They replied that they would investigate each episode forcefully. “Regardless of whether they are cases from years ago, or whether or not the Salesian about whom we have these testimonies is alive, the canonical procedure will begin,” said the Salesians. “It will be investigated and investigated,” Opus Dei stressed. “We take his word for it,” the Marists said of the victims.
Regarding their assessment of the report, the bishops admit in their statement that “all the initiatives of institutions and media that help to end the scourge of sexual abuse committed against minors or vulnerable people in the Church or in society are, in beginning, a good collaboration ”. However, the EEC criticizes the work of EL PAÍS: “It would be desirable for the accusations contained in the aforementioned report to be more rigorous, since their content, of a very disparate nature, makes it difficult to draw conclusions that could be used for a possible investigation. Especially when the names of the accused are missing, the years in which the abuses occurred, or it refers to deceased persons ”. At Cope, the bishops-owned radio station, its editorial director, José Luis Restán, also discredited the report as “a Macedonian” and “without much contrast.”
The file of this newspaper, prepared over three years and after investigating 600 complaints received by email, contains 251 cases with evidence and relevant information to be able to investigate the accusations. None of them are anonymous, but the identity of the complainants has been preserved, and EL PAÍS has offered the Church to facilitate contact with the victims as a mediator if they wish to give their testimony in the investigation. Only in 35 of the cases the victim does not remember the name of the accused. However, it does provide dates, places, often the clergyman’s position or function, and a description of the events. Only in nine cases out of 251 does the date not appear.
The EEC also “encourages all victims to present their complaints to legal, canonical or social institutions.” In the report, however, there are at least twenty cases of victims who have done so recently in recent years with little success. They knocked on the doors of dioceses and religious orders, but in some cases those responsible did not open an investigation and in others, where they were assured that they would hold a canonical trial, they are still waiting for the congregation or the bishopric to contact them. they.
There are many affected who question the treatment they have received from the ecclesial hierarchy, also from the victim assistance offices that, since 2020, there are in each diocese. Javier, victim of the pedophile priest José Manuel Ramos Gordón in the minor seminary of La Bañeza (León) in the late eighties, has repeatedly tried to communicate with the delegation for victims of abuse in the diocese of Astorga. “They have 15 emails from me that they have never responded to. But also the nuncio, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Episcopal Conference. It is a fraud. They do it to continue covering up their crimes, “he says. His attacker was sentenced to a month of spiritual retreat in 2017, which he did not comply with. Now try to repeat the process. “I only went there once and I was there for five minutes,” he stresses.
Juan Cuatrecasas, president of the Stolen Childhood victims association, has reacted outraged to the bishops’ response: “That these gentlemen speak of rigor is offensive. Let them interview each victim of that report and tell them face to face looking into their eyes that what they say is not rigorous. What is not rigorous is to say that dioceses have opened victim care offices and there is no published report on how many victims they have treated and how. What is your care? Is it like the one they have given to many victims, like Javier in the Astorga diocese? If their offices are really that rigorous, they should have independent staff, not their own staff, because it is like putting the fox in the henhouse. Either they are proactive or they are not. Giving mass and ringing bells is not possible. That the Spanish bishops stop lying once and for all ”.
If you know of any case of sexual abuse that has not seen the light of day, write us with your complaint to [email protected]
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.