La Croix International [France]
March 11, 2022
By Matthieu Lasserre
Spain’s parliament has approved the creation of a commission of inquiry to shed light on the sexual abuse of minors in Catholic-run institutions and churches
Spain’s parliament has voted to create an independent commission of experts to conduct an official investigation into pedocriminality in the Spanish Catholic Church.
The move on Thursday marks a major step in the fight against Church-related abuse in Spain and effectively by-passes the country’s bishops who have long been accused of trying to hide the phenomenon.
The new and unprecedented initiative, which was spearheaded by the ruling Socialists and the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), was approved by a wide majority in the Chamber of Deputies.
Two hundred seventy-seven of the 350 elected members voted in favor of setting up the abuse commission.
The vote comes after the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) announced on February 21 that it was launching its own independent audit on sexual abuse within the Church. The results of that inquiry are expected to be handed over to the bishops next year.
“End of disgrace”
Unlike in other countries such as the United States, France, Germany, Ireland and Australia, there has never been a major investigation into sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church in Spain.
The new independent commission being set up by parliament is to be chaired by an ombudsman and will be made up of representatives of the government, the victims and the clergy.
It will be responsible for “investigating the abhorrent acts committed by individuals against defenseless children” and for “identifying the persons who committed these abuses, as well as those who covered them up”.
It will then compile a report and submit it to parliament.This investigation will mark “the beginning of the end of disgrace”, said Socialist parliamentarian Carmen Calvo, former number two in the left-wing government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
There has been increased pressure on Spain’s notoriously reluctant bishops in recent months to expose sexual crimes and offenses committed in the Church.
Journalists from the daily paper El Pais began their own investigation into Church-related sexual abuse back in 2018.
One of them personally delivered their conclusions to Pope Francis last December in order to bypass Spain’s Catholic leaders who have been reluctant to ask for the opening of judicial proceedings.
The Vatican subsequently ordered and oversaw the opening of a major investigation into 251 alleged cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics and members of religious institutions in Spain.
Officially, the Spanish Catholic Church has only recognized 220 cases of pedocriminality in the last 20 years.
But El Pais has documented the cases of 1,246 alleged victims and identified more than 600 abusive clerics between 1943-2018.
The Catholic Church in Spain played a central role in educating the young during that period, especially under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco (1936-1975).
More than 1.5 million children today still study in some 2,500 Catholic-run schools, according to CEE figures from 2020.