Spain’s ombudsman said Monday that an independent commission set up a year ago to investigate historic sex abuse by the Catholic Church has collected testimony from 445 victims, as the nation tackles an issue other European countries have long ago considered. action was taken.
Spain’s parliament voted on March 10, 2022 to launch the first official investigation into sexual abuse by priests and church officials, led by ombudsman Ángel Gabilondo. The government was forced to act after allegations of abuse involving more than 1,200 victims were published, sparking a public outcry, in the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
Gabilondo’s office said in a statement that testimony was still being collected and an update would be issued to parliament before the current government’s term ends this year. Although “satisfied” by the number of victims who feel able to come forward, “what really matters is for victims to be heard … with respect, seriousness, discretion and confidentiality,” it added.
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A Madrid-based law firm is conducting a parallel investigation ordered by the Spanish Episcopal Conference, which for years rejected the idea of taking a comprehensive approach to sexual abuse investigations.
In a sign that the bishops have not yet fully cooperated with the government-ordered investigation, the Spanish ombudsman said that a year after receiving his mandate, “We are requesting the cooperation of the different levels of the Catholic Church.” We are and we hope that we will be able to count on it soon.”
Only a few countries have had a government-initiated or parliamentary inquiry into the abuse, as in Spain.
The most widespread occurred in Australia and in 2017 found that 7% of Catholic priests were accused of abusing minors between 1980 and 2010. Judge-led investigations in Ireland from 2005 hit the once-dominant influence of the Catholic Church in Irish society and politics.
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And in France, an independent investigation in 2021 estimated that some 330,000 children were victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests or other Catholic-affiliated staff during 1950–2020.
In neighboring Portugal, an expert panel said last month that as many as 4,800 individuals in the Catholic Church could be victims of child sex abuse.
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