Spain’s Catholic Church on Tuesday issued an apology to victims of sexual abuse by priests, while also objecting to the accuracy of a recent survey, saying such abuse was less common than previous investigations across the country. may be more widespread.
The survey, which was included in a report by Spain’s human rights ombudsman and released last Friday, revealed that 0.6% of more than 8,000 respondents reported experiencing abuse. This percentage increased to 1.1% when accounting for lay persons, including teachers of Catholic schools.
After an extraordinary meeting, the Spanish Bishops’ Conference expressed deep regret for the damage caused by sexual abuse by some members of the Church and reiterated its request for forgiveness from the victims.
The Catholic Church has grappled with sex abuse scandals in various countries over the past decades, including the United States, Ireland and France. However, following a significant media investigation in 2021, the issue became a topic of public debate only in Spain, where approximately 60% of the population identifies as Catholic.
The conference, which the Ombudsman criticized for not fully cooperating with the investigation, said it lacked information regarding the survey’s methodology and the specific questions raised. Cardinal Juan José Omela, president of the conference, found this illogical, pointing to the opaqueness surrounding the survey.
Survey results show that more than one in 200 Spaniards may have experienced abuse. Although this extrapolation may not be completely accurate, the percentages provide information about the extent of the issue.
An internal church investigation, published in June, identified 728 alleged sexual abusers within Spain’s clergy, with 927 victims dating back to the 1940s. A 2021 report by El País newspaper previously identified more than 1,200 alleged cases.
The Ombudsman’s report also recommended the establishment of a state fund to compensate victims. Francisco García, general secretary of the conference, indicated that the Church would be willing to contribute to such a fund.
However, he stressed that the issue of abuse extends beyond the Church and includes general educational institutions, sports associations and other institutions.