Catholic Schools, the employers of the religious centers of Spain, has published a decalogue of action against child sexual abuse that forces the authorities to inform the authorities and to detach the accused "regardless of when the events occurred". The new norm recommends that all adults who have knowledge of any case of abuse report it to the Office of the Prosecutor, the Civil Guard or the National Police. "There are two possibilities: denounce or communicate, the latter, in many cases, is a simpler and more appropriate way," says the document.
It also includes the creation of a "crisis committee" to centrally manage each complaint. In the event that the alleged abuser is a cleric, the document requires the ecclesiastical hierarchy to be informed as well. The document proposes that schools conduct an internal investigation, even if the alleged pedophile has died. The decalogue was distributed last Wednesday to more than 2,000 educational centers. In total, more than 82,000 teachers teach more than 1.2 million students in religious schools, 58% of the teaching concerted in Spain.
- Communicate to the center address
- Welcome the victim
- Provide medical care
- Open an investigation
- Remove the accused
- Activate the crisis committee
- Inform the authorities
- Communicate the crisis
- Reinforce preventive measures
The most novel measure is the creation in each center of a "crisis committee", of which a lawyer and a psychological counselor must be part. Also the director of the school, the bishop of the diocese or the superior of the order of the province can integrate this group. The committee will centralize the decisions, will "rigorously" document all the steps and will publicly communicate the process, "based on transparency, truthfulness and agility," through a spokesperson. The norm indicates that "once the scope of the crisis has been assessed, an official communiqué will be drawn up condemning the abuses and asking for forgiveness."
In educational centers there is already a coexistence commission, which deals with issues of misbehavior in students or teachers, but not sexual abuse, since these are crimes that must be dealt with exclusively by the civil authority, according to Leticia Cardenal, president of the Spanish Confederation of Associations of Parents of Students.
The Decalogue also emphasizes that teachers must communicate "indications" or "reports" of abuse to the center's management "preferably within 24 hours". This "communication", the text underscores, must be complemented with an internal report so that the complaint "arrives well documented to the heads of the corresponding titular institution". The protocol also recommends welcoming the victim, providing psychological and medical assistance if the minor has suffered an injury. The new norm prohibits the student from being asked "morbid details" of the episode and being judged. "It is important that the victim feels believed and protected, regardless of whether further investigation confirms or denies the allegation," the document underscores.
"The protocol aims to guide the centers with something that had been doing for some time. Catholic Schools can not force the centers it represents to take concrete action. What is intended is to briefly guide and summarize the steps to be taken in the face of a case of abuse, "says José Alvira, general secretary of the entity. Alvira explains that, in recent years, Catholic Schools has been in contact with the Spanish Episcopal Conference and with the Spanish Conference of Religious to improve the method of action against pedophilia. In 2016, it published a general code of conduct that informed of the measures to be taken in the face of child abuse. "The publication does not follow a case that has occurred in recent months. We have been working for a long time on this. Although we have waited to take it out after the Vatican summit on pedophilia last month in case it declared any specific guideline, "adds Alvira.
The list of the 10 steps has a chronological character. However, the entity points out that some should have a general nature, such as prevention, or simultaneous, such as communication to the authorities or the start of the crisis committee. "The first thing is to pick up if the episode has a credible character and then act as quickly as possible," explains Alvira.
The association recommends that preventive measures be taken and that the centers seek advice from specialized organizations, such as Unicef, Save the Children or the ANAR Foundation. It also encourages the application of the "guidelines and protocols of Episcopal Conferences and religious congregations. The entity recommends that each school have its own protocol for action. "The facts of sexual abuse to minors should not be silenced, nor covered or underestimated in any case," appears in one of the points of the decalogue.
In the last months, the denunciations of pederasty against members of the clergy have hit hard to the religious schools of Spain. In centers like the Salesians of Deusto (Bilbao) more than thirty victims of the last three decades have come to light. This has forced educational congregations to conduct internal investigations, to remove teachers, recognize the facts and ask for forgiveness.