Pope Francis has called for an investigation into child abuse in the Spanish Church. He does so after learning of a report with 251 new alleged cases of child abuse, investigated by the newspaper ‘El País’. The president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Juán José Omella, has transferred the investigation to the 31 dioceses and 31 orders affected.
In Spain, the version of the Episcopal Conference speaks of 220 clerics denounced for abuses in the last 20 years. We wonder what the Church in Spain has done in the face of these abuses and what the State has done.
In Spain there are no official figures of abuses committed against minors in the Church. The Episcopal Conference has only recognized 220 cases and they are from the last 20 years. The Church says that any judicial investigation into the abuses will be well received, but, it emphasizes, that it must also be done in the rest of the society.
Mario Iceta Gavicagogeascoa, Archbishop of Burgos, asks “lift rugs across the board, see where these execrable events take place”. The Episcopal Conference is not going to open a general investigation of its cases of pederasty in the past, and limits itself to asking the victims to go to its attention offices, opened two years ago. The Archbishop of Burgos has apologized, on behalf of the Church, to the victims of sexual abuse, for whom he says he feels deep pain: “It is something unacceptable and unjustifiable. How they have destroyed the lives of many people, the pain it has caused in them and also in their family environment, and being in an ecclesial environment, pain and shame are added “.
Victims’ associations find it difficult for those who have suffered abuse to go to the Church itself to denounce. “Who is going? Who trusts someone who has looked the other way and is even a collaborator in these crimes? But it is a way of justifying that they are doing something and it is a way of saying that there are no cases in Spain, that there are very few and that it is anecdotal,” criticizes Mikel Eziolatza, a victim of abuse in religious centers in Navarra.
The Spanish Conference of Religious, which brings together 400 congregations, says that they are now beginning to listen to the victims, but acknowledge that they did not act correctly in the past: “What has happened was because perhaps there were not enough protocols and ways of acting, something escaped us, things were probably hidden because perhaps it was a practice that existed where what was known was in the very private sphere,” he explains. Jesús Miguel Zamora, General Secretary of the Conference.
“Priority has been given to defending the institution inward in an inbred way, against the defense of the victims of their pain and the terrible experience,” denounces Pepa Monleón, from the Revuelta de Mujeres en la Iglesia collective.
The victims maintain that until recently the State has also looked the other way. One of the problems has always been the prescription of cases, but with the new children’s law, the time to report has been extended, which has given them some hope. “For a victim it is very difficult to understand that because the crime has not been reported before, it no longer counts for the state,” explains the lawyer for the Stolen Childhood association, Leticia de la Hoz.
The State does not have access to ecclesiastical archives. It is one of the points included in the Concordat. This week the Attorney General’s Office has requested information on open procedures throughout Spain on cases of abuse of minors in religious institutions.