Catholic bishops in Spain have finally bowed to outside pressure to shed light on Church-linked sexual abuse cases, being among the last prelates in Europe to do so.
The Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) announced on Monday that it has approved the launch of an independent audit by the law firm Cremades & Calvo Sotelo to investigate cases of clergy sexual abuse.
“The firm (…) will open an independent channel to receive possible complaints, review the legal procedures to sanction criminal practices and offer its collaboration to the authorities to help clarify the facts and establish a prevention system that responds to requests social issues”, said an EWC statement.
Lack of transparency
But it is not yet clear if the episcopal conference will take part in this work.
It is also not clear whether the audit will only cover recent cases of sexual violence or, on the contrary, will also seek to extend its work to past decades, like the investigative work recently carried out by the commission. French Independent (CIASE).
A number of victims’ groups immediately complained that they were not associated with this initiative.
While Germany, France, Portugal and Ireland have already embarked on similar work, the Spanish bishops have been extremely reluctant to open a project which is likely to have consequences beyond their control.
The Spanish government, led by Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, had even proposed the establishment of a commission of inquiry.
More recently, the daily El País transmitted to the Vatican the results of its investigations into the sexual abuse of minors in Spain and obtained the opening of 251 proceedings.
Spain’s Catholic Church, which has only recognized 220 cases of child abuse since 2001, said it had protocols in place to deal with violence and train those working with young people.
But this figure is still far from the number of alleged cases of abuse.
El País counted 1,237 possible victims and some 600 abusive clerics.
Spain’s bishops’ conference has also paid compensation to some victims, but it has been criticized for its lack of transparency in the criteria it used.