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  • November 2023: Independent report on sexual abuse within the Spanish Catholic Church

On 27 October 2023, Spanish Obusman, Ángel Gabilondo, handed in to the President of the Spanish Congress a 779-page report on sexual abuses in the Spanish Catholic Church. The report was the outcome of an independent commission presided over by Gabilondo and requested by the Spanish Congress of Deputies on 10 March 2022.

The document, entitled “Report on sexual abuses in the context of the Catholic Church and the role of public authorities. A needed response”, estimates the percentage of Spaniards who were victims of sexual abuse by the clergy as minors in around 0,6% of the respondents, which extrapolated to the whole population is around 234.000 people. Drawing on a survey among 8000 people, the report also shows that 1,13% of the respondents had been a victim of sexual abuses committed by Church members (be they ordained or lay people). Extrapolating this percentage to the whole population would mean that at least around 440.000 people suffered from this type of abuse. This extrapolation of these figures to the general population was rejected by the president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference after the release of the survey results. However, the reactions to the report within the Church are not uniform and some leaders are keener on supporting further procedures than others.

Among other measures, the report demands the public recognition of the damage inflicted, that the Church makes the necessary institutional changes, and it proposes the creation of a state-funded reparation fund for the victims. It also recommends the provision of professional support to the victims as well as prevention measures.

In a country where the Catholic hierarchy has often denied or downplayed the existence of abuse scandals and has been very reluctant to collaborate in the investigation, the report opens a door for the wrongdoings of the institution to receive much more public attention.

For the complete report (in Spanish), click here.
For a summary of the report (in English), click here.

  • October 2021: Religious gatherings in front of abortion clinics

As it can happen in other countries, women who attend abortion clinics in Spain often face the harassment of people who gather to pray in front of the clinics’ doors. According to data gathered by the Association of Clinics Accredited to Interrupt Pregnancy in 2018, 89% of women who attend those clinics report having been harassed at the entrance and 66% report having been threatened. The issue has gained public attention recently. After several civil society organisations mobilised from 2019 to request that the government take action, the congress has admitted to discussion a proposal made by the Socialist Party in September 2021 to change the penal code. The change proposed would criminalise the harassment of women in front of such clinics and any other form of obstacle to women’s freedom in regard to abortion.
Such forms of harassment in front of clinics, as well as online, are regulated as a crime in France by the law 2017-347. In other European countries, such gatherings are banned.

For current news on the topic, see: El Pais, El Periódico, Libération.

  • 2016: Debate after sexual abuses in a Catholic faith-based school

Recent complaints to the police on sexual abuses committed by teachers in a Catholic faith-based school in Barcelona have sparked debates about the implication and lack of reaction of the Catholic Church in such matters. The situation, that has taken place in the school some years ago, has also generated speculation: are such cases isolated, or are they just the tip of the iceberg?

  • November 2014: Sexual abuse in Granada

Currently, Spain is witnessing a strong and vivid controversy about pedophilia within the Catholic Church. In 2014, a 24-year old teacher from a Catholic school in the North of Spain, victim of sexual abuses committed over more than 4 years by priests while he was studying in a Catholic school in Granada (Andalusia), sent a letter to the Pope explaining his case. The Pope contacted him directly by telephone in August and asked him to apologize the whole Church of Christ for the pain he suffered. He also told him that the Vatican had taken action to fight the situation and contacted the diocese to ask for collaboration with the investigation. The Pope also encouraged him to bring the case to the regular judicial system.

Now the case is under police and court investigation. 12 people, among which laypersons and priests, are been investigated. 10 priests have been removed from their duties. 4 people have been arrested so far and the Archdiocese is collaborating by providing the names of potential witnesses. Since the case has become public, the Archdiocese of Granada is investigating four more files, which have also been sent to the Vatican.

The case is very recent but is increasingly present in the media. The public debate about pedophilia within the Catholic Church is not as widespread in Spain as it can be in other countries. However, other issues had already put the Catholic Church under the spotlights in the last years: the collaboration of nuns with the stealing of babies during the Franco regime, or the pressures on the Government concerning the law on abortion. This new question thus contributes in putting the Catholic Church and its hierarchy at the center of the attention.

D 13 November 2023    AJulia Martínez-Ariño

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