Spain finally approves first probe into child abuse by Catholic priests

25 March 2022

(Credit: YouTube / screengrab)

On 10 March, the Spanish parliament voted to set up a commission to conduct the country’s first official investigation into sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. The motion was passed by an overwhelming majority, with only the far-right party Vox opposing the historic investigation.

The commission will examine “the execrable personal acts committed against defenceless children” and will also identify “those who committed these abuses, as well as those who covered up or protected them”.

“On one hand, there will be public testimonies … On the other hand, there will be an authentic commission to find the truth. The proposed commission of experts will be granted with powers to force the church to cooperate if needed,” said Jaume Asens, head of the Unidas Podemos parliamentary group.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez wrote on Twitter that the investigation was “a first step to try to repair the pain of the victims, who had not been heard until now”.

Allegations of child abuse by Catholic clergy and cover-ups by the church are only surfacing now in Spain, years after similar scandals rocked the Church in other countries. The Independent explains: “The stacking up of different initiatives comes after Spain’s leading newspaper, El País, documented at least 611 cases of abuses perpetrated by priests, members of religious orders and people working for them over several decades, involving at least 1,246 victims.”

El País reported in February 2021:

More cases of child abuse by the Spanish Catholic Church are slowly coming to light. After the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits, recognized 81 victims since 1927 and announced plans for compensation, other religious congregations have begun to follow the order’s example. EL PAÍS spoke to 10 of the main Catholic orders in Spain, of which seven said they had carried out or were in the process of investigating past cases of abuse, and were equally open to compensating victims.

These investigations, however, are not in-depth internal inquiries, but rather a review of existing archives. Importantly too, the findings have not been made public and are still far from reflecting the extent of the abuse by the Catholic Church, compared to the advances made in other countries such as Germany, where an external audit found that 3,677 minors had been abused by members of the Church.

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