Report highlights extensive child sexual abuse by Spanish clergy

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An independent commission estimates that over 200,000 children in Spain have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic clergy since 1940.

These findings underscore the urgent need for the Catholic Church to address these deeply troubling allegations.

The report also criticises the church’s response to such cases, deeming it “insufficient,” and calls for the establishment of a reparations fund to support the victims.

In a poll of over 8,000 adults, 0.6% disclosed experiencing sexual abuse by members of the clergy during their childhood, equating to roughly 200,000 individuals among Spain’s adult population of approximately 39 million. When accounting for abuse by lay members of the church, this proportion increases to 1.13%, affecting over 400,000 people.

Spain, once a devoutly Catholic nation, has experienced a shift towards secularism, shedding light on long-standing clerical abuse allegations. Survivors have accused the church of obstruction and concealment.

The report’s release has prompted the Spanish bishops’ conference to convene an extraordinary meeting to address its findings.

Earlier in 2022, Spain’s parliament sanctioned the formation of an independent commission led by the national ombudsman to investigate allegations of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. While the church initially declined participation, it later cooperated by providing relevant documents.

In February 2022, the church enlisted a private law firm to conduct an “audit” of historical and ongoing sexual abuse cases, slated for completion by year-end.

The church maintains that it has implemented protocols and established “child protection” offices within dioceses. However, an investigation by El País uncovered 2,206 victims and 1,036 alleged abusers dating back to 1927, suggesting a more extensive issue than acknowledged.

This report comes in the wake of global revelations of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, notably in the US, Europe, Chile, and Australia, eroding the institution’s moral authority and impacting its membership.

In 2021, a French commission concluded that 216,000 children, predominantly boys, were sexually abused by clergy since 1950.

In Germany, a study identified 3,677 cases of abuse between 1946 and 2014, while in Ireland, over 14,500 individuals received compensation through a government scheme for abuses at juvenile facilities operated by the Catholic Church.

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