La Croix International [France]
February 22, 2022
By Matthieu Lasserre
Under intense outside pressure, Catholic leaders in Spain approve “independent audit” on sexual abuse committed by clerics, but it is not intended to be an in-depth study
The Catholic bishops of Spain have finally caved-in to outside pressure to shed light on cases of Church-related sexual abuse, being among the last prelates in Europe to do so.
The Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) announced on Monday that they approved the launch of an independent audit by the law firm Cremades & Calvo Sotelo to investigate cases of clergy sex abuse.
“The firm… will open an independent channel to receive possible complaints, review legal procedures to punish criminal practices and offer its collaboration to the authorities to help clarify the facts and establish a prevention system that meets social demands in this matter,” said a CEE statement.
Lack of transparency
But it is still not clear whether the episcopal conference will participate in this work.
Nor is it clear if the audit will only concern recent cases of sexual violence or, on the contrary, will also seek to widen its work to past decades, similar to the investigative work that was recently done by France’s independent commission (CIASE).
A number of victims’ groups immediately complained that they were not being involved 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 that will likely have consequences they cannot control.
The Spanish government, led by the Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, had even proposed setting up a commission of inquiry.
More recently, the daily El Pais sent the Vatican the results of its investigations into sexual abuse of minors in Spain and obtained the opening of 251 proceedings.
The Catholic Church in Spain, which has recognized only 220 cases of pedocriminality since 2001, claimed it has set up protocols to deal with violence and training for those working with young people.
But this figure is still far from the number of the alleged cases of abuse.
El Pais counted 1,237 possible victims and some 600 abusive clerics.
The Spanish bishops’ conference has also paid compensation to some victims, but it has been criticized for lacking transparency in the criteria it used.