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CRIME

Spain backs move to probe child abuse in Catholic church

Spain's Parliament on Tuesday agreed to consider opening an inquiry into child sex abuse within the Roman Catholic church in a first in the once-deeply religious country.

Spain's Catholic church, which has only recognised 220 cases over the past 20 years, has never held a comprehensive investigation. Photo: Oscar del Pozo/AFO
Spain's Catholic church, which has only recognised 220 cases over the past 20 years, has never held a comprehensive investigation. Photo: Oscar del Pozo/AFO

Until now, there has never been an official investigation by the Spanish government or church into alleged abuse by members of the clergy in Spain.

Podemos, the hard-left junior coalition partner in Spain’s left-wing government, as well as pro-independence parties the Catalan ERC and the Basque EH Bildu, last week filed a petition to open a parliamentary probe into the matter.

The executive body of Spain’s lower house of parliament said in a statement Tuesday it had approved the proposal.

To move forward, it will now need to be voted through by a simple majority of lawmakers, although no date has yet been set for such a vote.

The support of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist party will be key during that plenary.

The Socialists in principle support the idea of a parliamentary inquiry, but are also mulling the idea of an independent commission of experts looking into the alleged abuses, as has happened in similar cases in Australia and the Netherlands.

The centre-right Ciudadanos party backs a parliamentary inquiry, but the right-wing opposition Popular Party is opposed unless the initiative is broadened to look at “all institutions” within Spain.

The far-right Vox, Spain’s third-largest parliamentary force, is staunchly opposed to any such probe.

There are no official statistics on child sex abuse in Spain, but in 2018, El País newspaper began investigating abuse allegations and has since received details of 1,246 cases since the 1930s.

The church itself, which has only recognised 220 cases over the past 20 years, has never held a comprehensive investigation, insisting it has protocols in place to manage abuse allegations.

READ MORE: ‘No desire for truth’ in Spain’s Catholic church over child sex abuse

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CRIME

Panel begins probing child abuse within Spain’s Catholic Church

An independent commission that is to conduct Spain's first official probe into suspected sexual abuse of minors within the Catholic Church met for the first time on Tuesday.

Panel begins probing child abuse within Spain's Catholic Church

Unlike in many other nations where the government or the Church itself has opened an investigation into such abuses, Spain has only recently made moves to follow suit with lawmakers in March backing the creation of an independent commission.

The independent panel is made up of 20 people, mostly experts, but does not include representatives of the Church.

Spain’s ombudsman, Angel Gabilondo, who is in charge of the probe, on Tuesday “presided over the first constitutive meeting” of the commission, his office said in a statement.

The aim is to “prepare a report on sexual violence within the Catholic Church and the role of the public authorities”, it said, indicating that the panel included 17 experts “with experience in victimology, in the care of victims and legal knowledge”.

There is no deadline for completion of the report.

The initial idea was that members of the clergy would be on the committee but Spain’s Catholic Church said it would not directly participate although it would “collaborate with the authorities, providing all available information about the cases under investigation”.

It believes the commission should be looking into cases involving the abuse of minors within all of Spanish society and not just the Catholic Church.

Long accused by victims of stonewalling and denial, the Spanish Church in February tasked a private law firm with an “audit” into past and present sexual abuse by the clergy, teachers and others associated with the Church.

With no official statistics on child sex abuse within the Church, Spain’s El País newspaper began investigating allegations in 2018.

It has so far counted nearly 1,600 victims.

In March, the Spanish Church said it had discovered more than 500 cases of child sex abuse through a complaints procedure launched in 2020.

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