Spain’s Catholic bishops find evidence of 728 sexual abusers, 927 victims since 1945
Spain’s Roman Catholic bishops’ conference says it has found evidence of 728 sexual abusers within the church since 1945, through the testimony of 927 victims, in its first public report on the issue.
The church said that 83% of the victims and 99% of the abusers were male and that more than 60% of the offenders were dead.
In a report presented Thursday, more than 50% of offenders were said to be priests. The rest were other church officials.
The church said that most cases occurred in the last century, 75% of them before 1990.
The conference said that the collection of testimonies was continuing and that the figure would be updated periodically. The data were collected in some 200 offices for the protection of minors, set up by the church around Spain in 2019.
Leading daily El País, which has been reporting constantly on cases in Spain and abroad, said Friday that the real figures of abuses within the church were likely to be much higher, as the church report referred only to cases recorded since 2019 and did not include the number of cases the church was aware of before that date.
More than 150 Catholic priests and others associated with the Archdiocese of Baltimore sexually abused more than 600 children over the last 80 years.
A Madrid-based law firm conducting a parallel inquiry ordered for the Spanish Episcopal Conference has told the media that the number of victims is likely to be in the thousands. The firm has yet to produce its results.
Up until very recently, the Spanish church has been reluctant to carry out investigations or release information on sexual abuse cases. Spain’s state prosecutor earlier this year complained that the bishops were withholding information. The bishops denied this.
“Members of this our church have hurt other members of the church or society,” César García Magán, the Spanish Episcopal Conference secretary general, said at the report’s presentation. ”And for this reason, we feel pain and shame.”
He said that this would be meaningless if it did not lead to changes in the ways children were protected and offenders sidelined. He said the church was also committed to sharing its findings and must use the lessons learned to ensure that “sexual abuses do not occur again in the heart of the church.”
Officials with the International Churches of Christ and International Christian Church declined to comment on the allegations.
The bishops´ report said the abuses occurred mostly in schools, seminaries and parish buildings.
Spain’s parliament voted in 2022 to open the first official investigation led by the country’s ombudsman into the extent of sexual abuse committed by priests and church officials after El País published allegations of abuse involving more than 1,200 victims.
Earlier this year, the ombudsman said his independent commission had collected testimonies from 445 victims, but the probe was continuing.
Only a handful of countries have had government-initiated or parliamentary inquiries into abuse like Spain’s.
A Riverside woman was awarded $2.28 billion Tuesday by a Riverside Superior Court jury after she was sexually abused by her stepfather for years, her attorneys announced.
The most extensive took place in Australia. In 2017, it found that 7% of Catholic priests were accused of abusing minors between 1980 and 2010. Judge-led investigations in Ireland from 2005 severely undermined the Catholic Church’s once-dominant influence in Irish society and politics.
And in France, an independent inquiry estimated in 2021 that some 330,000 children were victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy or other Catholic-affiliated lay employees from 1950 to 2020.
In neighboring Portugal, an expert panel said this year that more than 4,800 individuals may have been victims of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for the L.A. Times biggest news, features and recommendations in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.