The Episcopal Conference enters into crisis and collides with the Pope over the investigation of pedophilia in Spain | Society



The refusal of the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) to open an official investigation into clerical pedophilia highlights the discrepancies of a part of the bishops with Francisco. They will not listen to the Pope, but neither to the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is what the Holy Office of the Inquisition is now called. She is responsible for acting on the report that EL PAÍS gave her on December 2 with data that accuse 251 priests, religious and some lay people, and the EEC has already advanced her position. He maintains that he has not received any mandate from the Pope. Nor does it give “sufficient credit” to the documentation provided by the newspaper. Some prelates even speak that everything is “a smear campaign orchestrated by unleashed anti-clericalism.” On the contrary, in a scenario of growing confusion, most of the religious orders, which are affected by 77% of the cases in the study and which do not depend on the EEC, are acting the other way around: they have immediately started investigating and they are very interested in the process.

“The bishops are under shockThey are not acting because they do not know how to act, and a shameful situation of disobedience to the Pope has been created ”, a senior official in a Spanish diocese harshly thinks. Those within the Church who are for transparency and hope that the problem of pedophilia will be addressed once and for all attend in amazement at what has happened these days. “I believe that this investigation should mark a before and after, is what many of us have thought, hopefully so, I ask God,” reflects in another diocese a priest who has promoted the investigation of serious cases of pedophilia. “I am perplexed that deceased priests are not wanted to be investigated, because the victims have not died and are waiting for an answer. I know of several cases. Closing ranks is taking precedence, but the Church has to face the problem with all courage and depth, it is necessary to follow the Pope ”.

An expert canonist explains that the regulations are very clear and “do not allow discussion”: if a member of the Church receives information about these crimes, they must send it to the competent order or diocese to begin investigating it, it is almost automatic. “That is pure canon law, and not only that, it is being in communion with the magisterium of Benedict XVI and Francis.” At the Vatican, the reaction of the EEC was surprising, which disdainfully questioned the rigor of EL PAÍS’s work, distanced itself from the investigation and assured that it is being carried out by the Holy See.

The EEC, which has always refused to undertake an investigation of abuses in the past, is violating its own canonical rules, which are clear on the matter. The Vatican published in July 2020 a formulary that summarizes how to act in cases of abuse and indicates that the information about the offense it is “all information about a possible crime that reaches the Ordinary or the Hierarch in any way. It is not necessary that it be a formal complaint ”, as stated in article 9. It can arrive in any way,“ be disseminated by the social media, including social networks ”(article 10), and even with a rumor.

The circular with the guidelines for dealing with these cases that the Doctrine of the Faith issued in May 2011 indicates in its second point: “The responsibility to deal with cases of sexual abuse of minors rests in the first place with the bishops or the major superiors. . If the accusation is credible, the bishop, the major superior or a delegate of his must initiate a preliminary investigation “. Also article 16 of the motu proprio of the Pope called Protecting the Sacraments of Holiness, from 2001 and 2010, reiterates: “Every time the ordinary or the hierarch receives at least credible news of a more serious crime after the previous investigation, submit it to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which, if it does not advocate the cause itself due to particular circumstances, will order the ordinary or the hierarch to proceed further ”.

EL PAÍS sent a copy of its report on December 10 to the president of the EEC, Cardinal Juan José Omella, archbishop of Barcelona, ​​who acted in accordance with the norms: he immediately handed it over to the ecclesiastical court of his diocese. Then he had a conversation with the Pope. The Vatican has adopted an oversight role for the process through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as is customary, and will await results. According to the canonical rules, the term to carry out the investigation is 90 days. However, from there the system has short-circuited, because the EEC acts as if it had never received the report. The most conservative wing of the bishops has stopped the mechanism against Omella and the sector that is committed to cleaning, which is in the minority. The EEC is a collegiate body and its president does not rule. The archbishop of Barcelona is in a minority in the governing bodies and lacks the leadership to impose himself. Among the 70 Spanish bishops, the current opposed to the investigation is the majority.

In the EEC it also causes discomfort that the investigation coincides with the visits at the threshold of the apostles (on the threshold of the apostles) that the bishops of each country make every five years to the Pope to render accounts and have begun this month. The 24 bishops who were dispatching with Pope Francis last week and before the different Vatican dicasteries affirm that they were not told about the report, which was still under study and processing at the time. They recognize that the issue of pedophilia was addressed in the congregations for Catholic Education and for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Meeting with Francisco for more than two hours, they agree that the audience was even festive. They got the impression, they maintain, that he is very satisfied with the Spanish Church. None of the consulted prelates has agreed to be mentioned in this report. They also deny EL PAIS that in the last plenary assembly of the EEC, a month ago, there was talk of opening an official investigation at the proposal of several bishops. This newspaper is aware from other sources that this request has been made. In this first batch, the prelates of the ecclesiastical provinces of Santiago, Oviedo, Burgos, Pamplona-Tudela and Zaragoza were audited by the ministries of the pontificate, between the 13th and 18th of this month. The others will travel to Rome in four batches, between January 10 and 29, for the same purpose.

The EEC has distanced itself to such an extent from the pedophilia investigation initiated as a result of the EL PAÍS report that in its statement on Monday, after a day and a half of silence, it requested that the newspaper itself be sent to the 31 dioceses and 31 orders affected the cases that concern them. The head of the aforementioned diocese admits that he does not know how to act: “We have seen in the newspaper that we have a case, and we are waiting to start investigating, but they do not send us. In the end I don’t know if we will have to write to Omella to ask her expressly ”. Another bishopric, that of Zamora, has publicly announced that it wants to investigate and has even written to this newspaper to ask directly for information on their cases. On the other hand, another diocese confirmed this Friday that the EEC has already sent it information on their cases in order to start its work. For their part, most of the warrants immediately began investigating on their own.

But the EEC officially ignores any coordination in the investigation. Each order and diocese goes on its own, with different methods and varying degrees of will and transparency. In this way there are about 70 different interlocutors, since many congregations are also divided into autonomous provinces. The hundreds of victims who have contacted this newspaper are waiting for a response and many are willing to make a statement before the Church, but they distrust the effectiveness and credibility of the process. Also because until now orders and dioceses have barely accounted for the results of their investigations in the past. Victims’ associations have already shown their outrage at the EEC’s attitude. Meanwhile, new complaints continue to arrive to the EL PAÍS email: there are already fifty since the information of the report delivered to the Church last Sunday was made public.

“A single case of abuse should now embarrass us,” warns a member of the Repara organization, launched in January 2020 by the Archdiocese of Madrid for “the prevention of abuse and care for the victims.” It has been installed in a Caritas building, with the idea that this will provide a more welcoming environment for the victims than having to appear in the archiepiscopal curia, “surrounded by cassocks.” In its first year of operation, it treated 85 victims, seven of them at the hands of priests. Much of these offices, like the hierarchy in general, face widespread rejection, the consequence of a past with no credibility whatsoever.

Pontiffs in each diocese

In early Christianity, the bishop was chosen by the community with the task of supervising priests, monks, and friars in a given territory. This is clear from the word itself, in Latin bishop, that is, vigilant. In fact, it was often that no one wanted that burden. Today, bishops consider themselves pontiffs in their dioceses, surrounded by great paraphernalia. Although they are selected by the Pope (in Spain, after consulting the Government), they are not obliged to apply non-doctrinal Vatican guidelines in their dioceses.

Neither does the Episcopal Conference, a mere coordinating body and responsible for distributing among the dioceses the funds allocated by their faithful in income tax returns, 301 million this year, does not have authority over them. It is about the controversial X in personal income tax in favor of that Church, without Catholics adding anything from their pockets. On the other hand, the Spanish bishops have their own court of the Rota, unique in the world apart from the Roman Rota, with seven judges, a prosecutor and a defender of the marriage bond. Other episcopal conferences have been claiming that privilege from the Vatican for years, which Spain won in 1771.

Traditionally Papists since the pontificate of Pius IX, who proclaimed the dogma of Infallibility, never before have so many bishops manifested such an express distance from the Roman Pontiff. About twenty have been doing it without dissimulation, in line with the anger of a right that is reissuing the national-Catholic anticlericalism that took place in the last years of Francoism against Pablo VI and Cardinal Tarancón, including the opening of a prison for priests in Zamora, unique in the world.

Another thirty prelates, among them the cardinals of Barcelona and Madrid, Juan José Omella (75 years old) and Carlos Osoro (76), are openly related to the Pope but without power to impose their theses, despite being president, the first, and vice-president of the EEC, the second. Both have already reached the age of canonical retirement. The rest, up to 85 currently active, do not usually comment. The Pope can move chips to vary the trends. There are half a dozen vacant dioceses and he must already accept the retirement age of a dozen bishops and archbishops, among others those of Valencia and Valladolid, Cardinals Antonio Cañizares (76 years old) and Ricardo Blázquez (78 years old).

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]


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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