The Spanish ombudsman registered 445 complaints about sexual harassment in the church
Spain’s ombudsman says an independent commission set up a year ago to investigate the Catholic Church’s history of sexual abuse has gathered testimony from 445 victims as the nation grapples with an issue that other European countries have long dealt with.
MADRID — Spain’s ombudsman said Monday that an independent commission set up a year ago to investigate the Catholic Church’s history of sexual abuse has gathered testimony from 445 victims, as the nation deals with an issue that other European countries have long dealt with.
On March 10, 2022, the Spanish Parliament voted to launch the first official investigation led by Ombudsman Ángel Gabilondo into the extent of sexual abuse by priests and church officials. The government was forced to act after allegations of abuse involving more than 1,200 victims appeared in the Spanish newspaper El País, sparking a public outcry.
Testimony is still being collected and an update will be released in parliament before the current government expires this year, Gabilondo’s office said in a statement. While he was “pleased” with the number of victims who felt able to come forward, “what really matters is that we listen to victims … respectfully, seriously, discreetly and confidentially,” he added.
A Madrid-based law firm is conducting a parallel investigation at the behest of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, which for years rejected a comprehensive approach to investigating sex abuse.
In a sign that the bishops have not yet cooperated with the government-ordered investigation, Spain’s ombudsman said that a year into his mandate, “we are asking for the cooperation of the different levels of the Catholic Church and we hope to be able to count on it soon.”
Only a few countries, such as Spain, have launched government or parliamentary investigations into abuses.
The most extensive took place in Australia, and in 2017 it was revealed that 7% of Catholic priests were accused of abusing minors between 1980 and 2010. Inquiries led by judges in Ireland starting in 2005 affected the once dominant influence of the Catholic Church in Irish society and politics.
And in France, an independent study estimated in 2021 that some 330,000 children were victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests or other lay employees with Catholic ties between 1950 and 2020.
In neighboring Portugal, an expert panel said last month that more than 4,800 people may have been victims of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.