The Church of Spain insists it will not open its files broadly for the Ombudsman to investigate abuses of pederasty committed by clergymen in recent decades, although it has stated its intention to provide data on specific cases committed by the headed by Angel Gabilondo “We are not ready for a general opening of the archives because [eso] no institution would. But when allegations arise in the face of a message about a specific person [de abusos] it is necessary to know their ecclesial history, which is made available to them,” affirmed the Secretary General of the Bishops’ Conference and spokesman Luis Argüello this Thursday at the press conference after the meeting of the Permanent Commission of Bishops. Argüello said that in the Spanish episcopates and congregations there was an expectation of the media about child abuse. “If there really was a cover-up, would it be put in writing? There is a frankly exorbitant expectation of the archives. I get the impression that this feels like some sort of medieval film story, like you’d think you’d enter an archive and find something of it The name of the Rose: a hidden, secret book. Things are much simpler,” explained the secretary.
Despite the willingness to cooperate, the bishops warn that they are awaiting the steps of the Gabilondo advisory commission, which will start work in early July. “We have our own data, the knowledge about people and situations. From there we will work together on what is asked of us and that conforms to the established rules of the game, both civil and canonical,” added Argüello. You haven’t specified what those “rules of the game” are. Bishops remain angered by Congress’ decision to investigate cases committed within the church, a move that “didn’t seem appropriate” because pederasty “is a social issue,” they say, that’s not unique to the field concerns religious.
CEE, too, has announced a change of course in its previous opacity on the subject, promising to report annually on the cases reaching its diocesan victim support offices and those of the religious communities. So far, the church has only admitted that it has received 502 cases of abuse from clergy, priests and lay people in the last two years. This happened last March, months after EL PAÍS sent a dossier containing 251 unpublished cases to the President of the EEC, Cardinal Juan José Omella, and the Pope last December, leading the Spanish Church to start an internal investigation without precedent was confronted about pederasty.
At the time, EL PAÍS offered to act as an intermediary to facilitate EWG’s contact with victims who wanted to give their testimony, but the latter distanced itself, believing that this newspaper should be the one that had every diocese and parish concerned contacted the communication with the victims. 12 of the 31 dioceses covered in this report have not yet contacted the newspaper to request such contact. This Thursday, also as a novelty, the EWG sent a letter to the address of EL PAÍS, in which it asked for “the contact details of the complainants to be sent to its coordination and advisory service of the offices for the protection of minors, with the aim of to enable the work of the relevant office. Whenever the complainants agree to this mailing. This is another change of attitude: from denial to a more active attitude. It centralizes attention to the victims through an email, while EL PAÍS so far had to organize the contact of hundreds of survivors and witnesses with 70 different organizations.
Put the cases you know in the hands of the judiciary
Last Friday, the Spanish bishops handed over to the prosecutor’s office the second report submitted by EL PAÍS in the same week to Omella with 278 testimonies from abuse victims pointing to 244 priests, ministers and lay people accused of pederasty – 44 of whom had previously been accused of abuse by other victims. Later consulted by EL PAÍS, the EEC indicated that it had also submitted the first dossier, but did not attach to this report the progress of the investigations into the cases, which had been ongoing since the beginning of this year. Despite being asked, Argüello did not clarify why the EWG did not do it.
Both EL PAÍS reports are a continuation of the investigative work started in September 2018, based on the email opened by this newspaper at the time and which has already received more than a thousand complaint messages. In this way, the cases brought to light in Spain rise to 840 accused with at least 1,594 victims, according to the accounts kept by this newspaper, the only one that exists without data from the Church.
The prelates have not handed over to the public prosecutor all of the cases they try together. The spokesman for the bishops has assured that since 2019 the dioceses and religious orders have been forwarding all complaints that they have received and are “relevant” separately to the civil authorities. It did not explain what parameters these offices followed to consider which case is “more relevant” than another. “Our wish is to place the cases we know of in the hands of the judicial authorities. That’s what he says vade mecum issued by the Holy See and we do it,” he explained.
Among the steps the EWG has taken since then, stands out the commissioning of an external audit of its abuses, which it had always refused to do with the Cremades & Calvo-Sotelo law firm. Argüello reported last April that the Church had granted this company access to the archives of the Spanish episcopates in order to request documents. In three months, the company said it had received just 60 complaints, half of which related to non-religious incidents.
From “small cases” to half a thousand
Little more is known about the data that the Spanish bishops have so far publicly offered. The first information – after months of reassurances that the problem was in “a few small cases” – was given in April last year: 220 priests have come forward over the past 20 years, a figure provided by the Vatican after the EWG asked for the data. . Almost a year later, in March 2022 and after submission of the first EL PAÍS report, 502 cases were admitted. He has not clarified whether the complaints delivered by that newspaper were included in that statement. Except there were duplicate cases, since it was possible for the same victim to have reported their cases to multiple agencies. “We want the truth to shine so that there are no wolves disguised as lambs, but also so that tens of thousands of people who sacrifice their lives in educational, catechetical or missionary work are not exposed to perpetual suspicion,” explained Arguello. then.
The only additional information on this data appears in a private document that CEE sent in March to members of victim support organizations to whom this newspaper had access. It states that of the 502 cases, 177 were registered by the dioceses and 325 by religious orders. It is also noted that 103 of the cases relate to clergy, 182 to ordained clergy, 150 to unordained religious, 61 to lay people and six to persons of unknown identity. At least 90 of those accused have died and 343 cases of abuse occurred in the 20th century. More specifically, 24 of the cases date before the 1960s, 97 between 1960 and 1970, 100 from the 1970s, 81 from the 1980s, 41 from the 1990s, 17 belong to the first decade of the 21st century and 59 are after 2010 There are 83 cases that are undated.
The spokesman for the bishops also announced during the press conference that a meeting of diocesan ministries and religious communities will be convened in October this year to spend two days exchanging views on the work done so far and also “to outline a framework protocol for”. preventing abuse of minors and dealing with it when it occurs”.
If you know of a case of sexual abuse that has not come to light, please write to us with your complaint [email protected]
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