The Spanish Episcopal Conference again apologized on Monday for sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy after the country’s ombudsman’s report accused the Church of negligence in the case.
However, the bishops said that the interpretations made by the local press according to which there are hundreds of thousands of victims are “false.” They claim that this is a misrepresentation because many people are abused outside the Church.
“I repeat my request for forgiveness from the victims for this pain,” declared José Omella, president of the Episcopal Conference, in a press conference.
He added that the Church is committed to “collaborating in the comprehensive healing of victims and analyzing ways for their protection, their support and prevention of abuse.”
The bishops said they will contribute to any victim recovery program once it includes all victims of sexual abuse and not just those abused within the context of the Church.
The press conference was called to evaluate the ombudsman’s report, published last Friday, where the response of the Church in many cases was to minimize or deny the problem.
The report acknowledges that the Church has taken steps to address abuses and attempts to cover them up, but states that this is not enough.
The report includes a survey of 8,000 valid responses, via telephone and internet. The survey found that 1.13% of Spanish adults said they were abused as children, by priests or lay members of the Church, including teachers in religious schools. The survey highlighted that 0.6% of respondents identified their abusers as members of the clergy.
The Ombudsman Ángel Gabilondo did not extrapolate from the survey, but since the adult population of Spain is about 39 million people, 1.13% means that about 440,000 minors were abused by Catholic priests, members of religious orders or lay members of the church.
Omella insisted that the number mentioned in the press “does not correspond to the truth.” The Church maintains that, according to survey figures, about 4 million Spaniards, or 11.7% of the adult population, were abused as minors, which it describes as “an outrage,” suggesting that it is considered it’s too much. .
The survey conducted by GAD3, a recognized pollster in Spain, has a margin of error of +/- 1.1 percentage points
This is the first official investigation in Spain into cases of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy. The number included in the survey is the first time that such a large number of possible victims has been known in the country.
A Madrid law firm is conducting a parallel investigation ordered by the Episcopal Conference. It is expected to publish its findings in the coming months.
A few months ago, the Episcopal Conference said it found evidence of 728 sexual abusers within the Church since 1945, through the testimony of 927 victims, in the first public report on the topic.
Until recently, the Church in Spain has been reluctant to investigate or disclose information about cases of sexual abuse. Spain’s national attorney recently complained that the bishops were withholding information. The bishops denied it.
Few countries have held governmental or parliamentary investigations into sexual abuse within the Church, although some independent groups have conducted their investigations.