Cover image courtesy of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Spain
The bishops of Spain admit to 220 allegations of clerical sexual abuse in the country dating to 2001. The general secretary and spokesman for the Spanish bishops, Bishop Luis Arguëllo — auxiliary of Valladolid — addressed the issue at a press conference on Friday 23 April.
The cases included are those that have been sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the two decades since a 2001 change in Church law requiring that cases of sexual abuse of a minor under 18 committed by clerics be included among the “more grave crimes” and reported to the CDF.
More than 31,000 priests have served in the country since 2001. Of 220 abuse cases involving victims who were minors, 151 have been closed, while 69 remain open. Over the same 20-year period, Bishop Arguëllo noted, Spanish prosecutors have received 220,000 total complaints from all sectors of society.
Nuncio praises Bishops’ ‘good work’
The bishops’ announcement came at the end of their Spring plenary assembly, during which the Apostolic Nuncio to Spain, Archbishop Bernardito Auza praised the “good work” of the Spanish Bishops in giving “immediate attention” and providing “an institutional channel” for reporting the sexual abuse of minors.
Spain’s Bishops have not yet established a “service of coordination” between offices for the protection of minors.
However, during the Plenary Assembly, the bishops approved an advisory service for diocesan offices for the protection of minors and the prevention of abuse. “No one can interpret this as a lack of transparency or a refusal to support the Pope’s requests in this regard,” Auza told the bishops.
“In the spirit of collaboration and honesty well expressed, no one can doubt the credibility of the Church in its statements and activities,” he also said.
The Spanish bishops’ release of the abuse data came after the nation’s leading El País newspaper published a database that lists 309 accused abusers and 817 cases of abuse. It also follows the statement of Spain’s Minister for Social Rights, Ione Belarra, in connection with a new draft law on child protection in the country, in which Belarra called the Catholic Church “an accomplice in sexual violence against children.”