Spain’s Catholic Church Finds Personnel Abused Hundreds

Wall Street Journal [New York NY]

June 2, 2023

By Francis X. Rocca

Spanish bishops release report on child sex abuse by priests and others over eight decades

An investigation by Spain’s Catholic Church found that priests and other church personnel there sexually abused almost a thousand victims over eight decades.

A report by the Spanish Catholic bishops conference, released Thursday, said that at least 927 victims reported abuse by church personnel since the 1940s. The count will be updated as new data is collected, the conference said.

More than 99% of the abusers were male as were 83% of their victims. About half of the abusers were clergy. The largest numbers of cases occurred between 1960 and 1990.

The report was released at the same time as a compendium of the bishops’ child-protection policies, which mandate cooperation with police and prosecutors, including the obligation to report criminal abuse.

The Spanish bishops’ report is the latest of a series of local and national investigations into child sex abuse in the Catholic Church since the crisis erupted in 2002 with revelations of longstanding abuse and coverup in Boston. Since then, studies by private organizations or government institutions have indicated the extent of the church’s crisis in the U.S., Ireland, Australia, Germany, the U.K. and France.

The worldwide reckoning has proceeded at different speeds and with different consequences in various countries.

A report commissioned by the U.S. bishops found in 2004 that about 4% of Catholic clergy in the U.S. had been accused of abuse over the previous half-century. That spawned a series of measures to protect children and discipline abusers. The U.S. is the only country where church law requires the automatic removal from ministry of a cleric who has been found guilty of one act of abusing a minor.

A 2018 report in Germany found that priests there had abused at least 3,677 minors over seven decades. Those findings inspired church leaders in Germany to launch a series of meetings over three years that called for significant changes in church life, including the ordination of women, the blessing of same-sex relationships and the loosening of the celibacy requirement for priests.

A study in France last year found that priests and other church personnel there sexually abused approximately 330,000 minors since 1950.

Italian bishops released their first report on clerical sex abuse in November, covering only the years 2020 and 2021.

Write to Francis X. Rocca at