Spain's Catholic Church allows year-long legal investigation into abuse
The church has taken the first step to address child sexual abuse allegations following the lead of France and Germany's past probes.
The Catholic Church of Spain took the first step toward tackling child sex abuse on Tuesday, appointing attorneys to conduct a year-long inquiry modeled after similar investigations in France and Germany.
The political demand for a formal probe arose after high-profile Alejandro Palomas, a Catalan writer, went public for the first time about being assaulted by a priest at his school when he was just eight years old.
Cardinal Juan Jose Omella, the head of the CEE Episcopal Conference, which includes Spain's top bishops, told reporters that the Church intended "to take responsibility with regard to the victims, the authorities and Spanish society, by creating a new means of cooperation to clarify past events and ensure they don't happen again." The Cardinal pleaded for forgiveness on behalf of the Church and the pain caused to the victims.
Earlier last month, Parliament said that it will investigate a formal panel of experts to begin investigating, and the Church agreed to cooperate.
Omella stated the decision was not simple but detailed that "for us, what's important is that we're starting a new stage," he said.
To date, the Spanish Church has only acknowledged 220 incidents of abuse since 2001 and has ruled out any extensive inquiry into abuse accusations, as has occurred in Australia, France, Ireland, and the United States.
The probe, according to Javier Cremades, director of legal firm Cremades & Calvo Sotelo, would take roughly a year and will be based on work already done by the dioceses.
Following France and Germany
The investigation would also draw on the positive attributes of the French and German methods and learn from them.
In Germany, research released last month by the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) discovered that between 1945 and 2019, at least 497 children were assaulted in the Munich-Freising archdiocese.
Cremades stated that his team, which would be assisted by Germany's WSW, will strive to construct an accurate portrait of what occurred, by gathering details "first and foremost from those affected -- from victims, from their associations and the media."
With no official data on child sex abuse in a nation where 55% of the population is Roman Catholic, El Pais newspaper began researching in 2018 and has since received details on 1,246 incidents, some of which date back to the 1930s.
Cremades, a member of the ultra-conservative and prominent Opus Dei organization, stated that the Church "needs to see this through to the end, to plumb the depths of the problem, to investigate and to ask forgiveness if necessary and put right whatever needs rectifying."
The legal company has established a complaint-receiving process, with an inquiry to be carried out by a team of 18 persons, including six former Supreme Court justices.
Both Cremades and Cardinal Omella stated that their effort would not take precedence over the parliamentary proposal, but would "supplement" it, with the CEE chief divulging they would collaborate closely and efficiently.
The Spanish Parliament is presently considering two options: establishing an expert committee to examine child abuse inside the Church, which would report to the state ombudsman, and requesting a parliamentary investigation into the problem.