The abuse audit commissioned by the Church will investigate the cover-up and propose compensation

El País [Madrid, Spain]

February 22, 2022

By Julio Núñez and Iñigo Domínguez

[This is a Google translation of an article that appeared 2/21/2022 in the Spanish newspaper El País. To see the original article, click here: La auditoría de los abusos encargada por la Iglesia investigará el encubrimiento y propondrá indemnizaciones]

A law firm will investigate pedophilia: “We have the task of going to the bottom so that the whole truth comes out.” It will have the collaboration of the German office that the Munich diocese hired and appointed Benedict XVI, and will follow its work model

The president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Juan José Omella, on January 14 during the meeting with the media to report on the ad limina meetings held with Pope Francis – Antonello Nusca

The investigation that the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) has commissioned the law firm Cremades & Calvo Sotelo to independently investigate cases of pederasty in the Church in recent decades will also address the possible cover-up of these crimes by the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the payment of compensation, sources close to the process assure EL PAÍS. In the same way, they maintain that the work team will collaborate with any investigation that is launched from the institutions and will provide all the information available to it. The objective of the bishops, the same sources assure, is that the investigation be auxiliary and complementary to that promoted by the State.

The planned work will follow the model applied by the Church of Germany and, in fact, the Madrid law firm will have the advice of the Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) office, the same one that hired the Munich archdiocese. The result was a report, published earlier this year, that numbered 497 victims of sexual abuse committed by 235 religious between 1945 and 2019 in that bishopric alone. The most relevant point was that it pointed out the alleged cover-up of some cases by Benedict XVI , during his time in the diocese. Those responsible for the office have also consulted with the authors of the Sauvé report, from the French Church.

The president of the law firm Cremades & Calvo Sotelo, Javier Cremades, will appear before the press this Tuesday to explain the details of this investigation, together with the president of the CEE, Cardinal Juan José Omella. The Spanish bishops already reported this Monday in a statement that they had commissioned this firm an audit to open an “independent channel” to receive complaints and review the legal procedures “aimed at punishing criminal practices”, but they did not specify these lines of investigation . Contacted by this newspaper to expand the information, the EEC has responded that it will wait for the call to give more information. The office Cremades & Calvo Sotelo did not want to make statements either and refers to the press conference called for this Tuesday. But it does formulate a general approach:

The firm is one of the leaders in Spain in class action lawsuits, with extensive experience in complex cases with a huge number of affected parties, such as the Madoff case, with 3,000 plaintiffs; Bankia, with 3,500; the one of the damages of the strike of controllers, with 15,000 affected; or the car cartel, with 19,000. In that sense, they indicate that their prestige is at stake.

According to sources familiar with the agreement, the bishops contacted the law firm in early January seeking advice on how to deal with the problem and, in mid-February, a person in charge of the firm appeared before the bishops in the entity’s executive commission . The objective entrusted to the office was both to draw up a historical map of what has happened in the Spanish Church with respect to pederasty, and to open a channel to be able to take a picture of the problem at this time and that the largest possible number of victims can give their testimony. The firm has already opened an email: .

For this task, the firm will create an interdisciplinary team of 18 people that will include lawyers from the firm and external personalities, such as magistrates of recognized prestige and experts in psychology and other disciplines. The purpose is that the work team, assure the same sources, work with total independence and give a central role to the victims and the associations of those affected.

The initial term that arises in the project is at least between 12 and 18 months of work. In addition to listening to the testimony of the victims who contact the firm, it is also intended to incorporate information from internal investigations that have already been carried out by religious orders and dioceses. The work is presented as an external audit and the objective is to present a final report with the conclusions of the work that includes recommendations, also on compensation following the scales of the Spanish courts and insurance companies. However, unlike the report of the independent commission in France, it is not intended to include statistical estimates and extrapolations, nor assessments of the causes of the problem of abuse and the internal functioning of the Church.

The passage of the ecclesial hierarchy, similar to the one launched two years ago by the Munich archdiocese, represents a complete turnaround in the position of the EEC, which until now has refused any independent investigation. However, events have precipitated as a result of the report with 251 cases of abuse delivered by EL PAÍSthe Pope and Cardinal Omella last December. In January, United We Can, ERC and EH Bildu took the first step from politics to address the issue, with the proposal of a parliamentary investigation commission. Later, the PSOE has raised a commission led by the Ombudsman. In this way, at the moment there are three proposals from as many research channels that, in fact, could be launched simultaneously, while the political parties negotiate a consensus formula. And there would be four together with the investigation already underway in the Church itself. For its part, the EEC branded the possible parliamentary commission as a “Saducean trap”, and still has not clarified its position on the independent commission suggested by the Executive, nor whether it will collaborate with that official investigation.

An “outrageous” initiative for the victims

For most victims’ associations, hiring a law firm is a maneuver by the Church to clean up its image, “a chess move so that other commissions do not get ahead,” clarifies Fernando García Salmones, a member of Infancia Robada and victim of pederasty in the Church. He believes it is “outrageous” to entrust this task to a private office. Stolen Childhood published a statement on Monday in which it doubted the credibility and impartiality of said office by asserting that some of its members have ties to Opus Dei. “It is time to put people with proven experience in these matters in charge of an external audit,” the press release said.

Miguel Ángel Hurtado, a victim of abuse at the Montserrat monastery, believes that the law firm’s investigation will only be positive if it “gets to the bottom of the matter.” “The credibility of Cremades & Calvo Sotelo is at stake. If the objective is not to clarify the truth, but to collaborate in whitewashing the image, the reputational damage will be significant”, adds Hurtado.

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