MADRID – More than 200,000 minors are said to have been victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in Spain since 1940. This is concluded in an independent report.
The report was compiled by an independent commission led by Spanish ombudsman Ángel Gabilondo. The information is based on a survey of 8,000 people. This survey shows that approximately 0.6% of the Spanish adult population claims to have been abused by members of the Catholic Church when they were minors. If abuse by lay people within religious contexts is included, this percentage even rises to 1.13%.
“There are people who committed suicide (…), people who never got their lives back on track,” the Ombudsman said, at the press conference where the 700-page report “A Necessary Response” was presented. The investigation was commissioned by the Spanish parliament in March 2022.
Abuse cases date back to 1940
According to Gabilondo, cases of abuse have been recorded since the 1940s, but most occurred between 1970 and 1990. The report interviewed 487 people who continue to suffer from emotional problems and other consequences of the abuse that affect their entire lives .
Victims speak out
Teresa Conde, a 57-year-old philosophy teacher who was abused as a child, says: “I will never be a normal person. I will never be able to stop going to therapy or taking medication.” According to her, the report provides a ‘light’ that should guide authorities in Spain to prevent a recurrence. Conde was abused for years by a monk who was a close friend of her family, starting at the age of 14, when she attended a religious school.
Spain has never done any research before
Unlike France, Germany, Ireland, the United States, or Australia, Spain, a country with a deep Catholic tradition, had never investigated clergy sex abuse. In France, 216,000 child victims have been registered since 1950, in Germany there have been 3,677 cases between 1946 and 2014 and in Ireland, more than 14,500 people have received financial compensation.
In the Spanish Catholic Church, “for years there has been a habit of denying abuse (…), of hiding or protecting abusers,” denounced Gabilondo, who criticised the transfers of accused abusers to other parishes or countries.
Church response to abuse scandal
The Catholic Church in Spain announced that it would issue a position on Monday after an extraordinary meeting. In February of this year, the church announced its investigation. This will be carried out by a law firm and should be completed by the end of the year. The Church claims to have implemented action protocols against abuse and installed “protection of minors” offices in its dioceses.
Recommendations and next steps
The report, among other things, calls for the creation of a national fund to compensate victims and guarantee them psychological assistance for as long as necessary. Juan Cuatrecasas, the founder of the Infancia Robada (Stolen Youth) association, emphasises that the report should be the start of a process of drafting legislation to provide compensation to victims.
The father of one of the victims indicated that he was happy and saw the report as the beginning of a process to repair the damage. Not in the form of “alms, but they want to be considered victims in a constitutional state so that they are entitled to all the resources and demands they ask for that are necessary for their recovery.”