Gil José Sáez Martínez (San Pedro del Pinatar, Murcia, 1971) is the judicial vicar of the Bishopric of Cartagena. She explains that her function, delegated by the bishop, consists in "making justice in the diocese and ensuring the guardianship and the rights of the faithful before the Church". Along with his work as canonist and parish priest in the church of San José, in the municipality of San José de la Vega (Murcia), he prepares a thesis on the response of the procedural law of the Catholic Church and Spanish law in the face of sexual abuse committed by clerics. He is the only ecclesiastical judge who is not afraid to give his name to speak and recognize the concealment of cases of pedophilia in the Spanish Church that have been committed in his bosom for decades.
Question. The Spanish Church silenced in the past cases of sexual abuse?
Answer. Of course. Without a doubt. All the dioceses of the world, when a denunciation arrived, took and said: "Fulanito, we send you to such a place". And in that place I kept doing what I did in the other. That was done throughout the universal Church during the twentieth century, including Spain.
P. This newspaper has asked the 70 dioceses if they could provide information on the cases they have educated, known and brought to the attention of the Prosecutor's Office in the last 30 years. Only ten have facilitated the number of cases. Why this opacity?
R. I would not call it opacity. These issues are protected by the pontifical secret, so you can not talk if you are carrying out a procedure. We are talking about very serious crimes, sufferings that victims have and they can choose to be kept in strict secrecy. However, if the idea is that the pontifical secret serves to try to cover, conceal, hide that reality, it is not correct. If the bishop wants, he can make public the number of procedures that have been taken or are being carried out without giving personal details of the victims or accused.
P. Would not it be necessary for the Episcopal Conference to form a commission to know all the cases as has been done in other countries?
R. The Spanish reality has a difference with respect to Germany, the US or Ireland. In the Spanish dioceses there are no documents in the archives stating that the transfer of the pedophile priests from one parish to another was because there was a denunciation or evidence of sexual abuse.
P. This newspaper has found, at least, 33 convictions and some 50 cases instructed in ordinary justice in the last 30 years. What can be the total number of cases?
R. It is very difficult. I could not quantify it.
P. More than 50?
R. Yes of course. Many more.
P. If a bishop or priest is aware of a possible abuse, is he obliged to transfer it to the Office of the Prosecutor if the minor's family has not done so?
R. Yes, as provided in article 13.4 of the Law on Protection of Minors. Pope Benedict in his letter to the Church of Ireland tells priests and bishops that they should cooperate with civil justice. And to cooperate means to cooperate. If they are minors, inform the civil authority automatically and, if they are of legal age, encourage them to denounce before the civil authority, independently of the canonical procedure. The silence and the cover-up of the victims that, moreover, has been a silence imposed, makes these people moan in pain and that those wounds they have are never healed.
P. In the data compiled by this newspaper, only two cases have been found in which a diocese transferred a complaint to the ordinary courts (in 2010 and 2016). Before the publication of the protocols of action of the Church that invited to denounce, is there evidence that the dioceses denounced this type of crime?
R. In the investigation that I am doing I have not found that this situation occurred.
P. In the protocol of action published by the Episcopal Conference in 2010 it is pointed out that when the religious knows a case, "invite" the family to denounce. Only three of the dioceses consulted have other protocols where it is pointed out that religious should go to the ordinary courts. Why this difference between the protocols published by the Conference and these three?
R. The protocols were published in December 2010. When they were posted on the web, some Spanish bishops were unaware of its existence. Since then, the Episcopal Conference has not modified them according to the Circular Letter of the Congregation of the Faith of 2011. From my point of view, it is a protocol that leaves the victim in second place. There is no balance between the alleged victim and the alleged aggressor.
P. What reference does the Canonical Code make to indemnities?
R. First of all, it must be said that not all the money in the world will repair the damages suffered by these people. But the victim must receive something that helps him repair and that reparation is done in economic terms. How should it be done? First, the bishop must explain to the complainant that he is entitled to compensation if guilt is proven. If so, a negotiation is made between the victim's lawyer and the bishopric's attorney. Normally, what the victims ask for ranges between 100,000 and 200,000 euros.
P. How can the Church solve the problem of abuse?
R. Pope Francis asks bishops, priests and lay people to recognize what has happened. That's the first step. Second, as the Gospel of John says: "The truth will set you free." Put the truth and establish it. And ask for forgiveness.
The ecclesiastical process to judge pedophilia begins with a previous investigation. After receiving the complaint, the bishop appoints a researcher to gather information. "This expert takes a statement from the alleged victim, the alleged aggressor, witnesses and people who can provide information and may even request expert evidence for the alleged victim or the alleged aggressor," explains Gil José Sáez. If the investigator sees that after all this there are indications of the commission of a crime, he informs the bishop of the result and he presents a report to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in Rome, to decide the procedure for judging the case: the extrajudicial administrative or criminal.
"The case can be carried by the Congregation itself, but due to the volume of work it has, it always decides to take charge of the diocese," says the vicar. In the "extrajudicial administrative" process, a delegate repeats all the interrogations and prepares a report stating whether there has been a crime. In criminal proceedings, a court makes a judgment and a sentence is drawn up. "In both processes, the bishop sends the resolution to Rome for the Holy See to ratify it," Saez explains.