The bell tower of a church is seen at sunset in the village of Montmaneu, Spain, January 28, 2022. Spain’s episcopal conference, which initially left it to dioceses to investigate abuses, announced the February 22 that she had hired a law firm to conduct a year-long study into employee sexual abuse. (CNS photo/Nacho Doce, Reuters)
ROME (CNS) – In an about-face, Spain’s bishops’ conference announced that it had hired a law firm to conduct a year-long investigation into sexual abuse by clerics in the country.
At a press conference in Madrid on February 24, Cardinal Juan José Omella of Barcelona, president of the Spanish episcopal conference, said the conference had engaged the law firms Cremades and Calvo-Sotelo “to carry out an investigation independent who will audit”. the Church’s handling of cases of abuse.
“The Spanish Episcopal Conference wants to take a step forward in its obligation of social transparency, aid and reparation to victims, and collaboration with the authorities regarding cases of sexual abuse within the Spanish Church,” said Cardinal Omella told reporters.
In January, Cardinal Omella, who was in Rome with several bishops for their “ad limina” visits, told reporters that the episcopal conference had no intention of creating a single independent commission like in Germany, France or to neighboring Portugal to conduct a nationwide survey. dealing with past and present cases.
Instead, he said, individual dioceses would have their own independent commissions so survivors could easily report to their local diocese. He also told reporters in Rome that the Vatican supports their plan.
But there was growing public support for the government to step in and investigate.
In mid-December, Spanish newspaper El País said it had conducted a three-year investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Spain and uncovered 251 unpublished cases of abuse dating back 80 years.
Additionally, El País said its investigation, which began in 2018, found approximately 1,246 victims of abuse in the Catholic Church.
The Spanish parliament agreed on February 1 to consider a proposal by several political parties that called for the creation of a commission to investigate cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
The proposal could lead to a vote to form a government-led commission to investigate the church’s handling of abuse allegations.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced on February 8 that if the vote passes, the country’s mediator – Ángel Gabilondo – would lead the government’s investigation.
Javier Cremades, the head of the law firm hired by the Spanish bishops’ conference, told reporters he had contacted Gabilondo and that the investigation would be similar to independent investigations commissioned by the Catholic Church in Germany and France.
However, he said, it will also incorporate “the work done so far by the different Spanish dioceses.”