The president of the Episcopal Conference, Juan José Omella, denied the “truth and reliability” of the results of the Ombudsman’s survey on sexual abuse in the Church and demanded a “complete and impartial” review of the data to correct “any bias that may be maliciously extrapolated.”
In the opening speech of the Plenary Assembly of the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE), Omella acknowledged that the report of the Ombudsman “fills the bishops with sadness”, but also with “pain and discomfort” in the face of public slander due to “an intentional and false extrapolation” of the survey that shows that 1.13% of Spaniards suffered abuse in a religious place and 0.6% by a priest or religious.
“This situation is unacceptable and requires a full and impartial review of the data to correct any bias that may be maliciously extrapolated. We have reviewed the information in the aforementioned survey provided by the Ombudsman in his report, and, frankly, it is impossible, so we can trust the authenticity and reliability of those results,” emphasized Omella.
The Cardinal Archbishop of Barcelona appreciated the recommendations proposed by the Ombudsman but rejected the extrapolation of the data from the survey, which, he assured, caused his “great disappointment”, while criticizing the “dubious reliability of the results.””.
“This unfounded and deliberate extrapolation has led some media outlets to the extreme claim that in Spain there are almost half a million abused by ordained and consecrated ministers of the Church; if the only thing that is true and proven is that “The Ombudsman has collected 373 testimonies referring to 487 victims,” he said.
In this sense, he remembers that the defender himself, Ángel Gabilondo, said that this extrapolation of the data is not possible, “and many technicians have confirmed this in recent weeks.”
The bishops argue that a figure of 0.6% cannot be extrapolated when the survey’s margin of error is 1.1%.
And they regret that it has created a “damaging image” of the church, so they demand “a full and impartial review of the data to correct any bias that may have been maliciously extrapolated.”
“We analyzed the information from the aforementioned survey that the Ombudsman provided in his report, and, frankly, it is impossible for us to trust the authenticity and reliability of those results,” he emphasized.
Omella assured that “in no way” they intend to look for excuses or justifications to avoid any responsibility as an institution and expressed “shame and sadness” due to the abuses, while asking for forgiveness from all the people who have suffered because of these “execrable actions”.
“There are not enough words to express how sorry we are for your pain, as well as the betrayal some members of our communities have committed,” he said.
He recalled that the Church is reviewing its protocols and working “closely” with civil authorities to guarantee that those responsible for these acts are brought to justice, and he encouraged those who suffered abuse to approach the corresponding organization in each diocese.
In this sense, he explained that the Church has many services to care for victims and protocols adopted for this purpose, and he pointed out that, if a case happens again, they are ready to act “quickly and effectively.”.
However, Omella insists that this is a drama that affects one in five children in Europe and that most of the abusers are family members or people close to the victim.
He reiterated his commitment to fight against all forms of abuse, but he indicated that “our respect and consideration for priests and religious people in our church remain intact.”
“We bishops want to offer our support to everyone. Let’s be honest and not rush,” he concluded.