July 25, 2021

The Church is reluctant to revise its past | Society

The Church is reluctant to revise its past | Society

The Church in Spain resists review cases of past sexual abuse. Unlike what is happening in other countries, such as Germany or France, the leadership of the Spanish Church has not commissioned or prepared any report or created any commission to investigate the sexual abuse of priests to minors in recent decades. Pope Francis has convened in February the episcopal conferences around the world to address the case of sexual abuse of minors in the Church.

Episcopal Conference, dioceses, orders and religious congregations consulted by EL PAÍS assure that they do not plan to gather information on pedophilia cases that they have known or instructed in recent decades. Only the Society of Jesus departs from this criterion.

The bishops of France, after having met with some victims, agreed on November 7 to create an independent commission formed by historians, judges, experts in early childhood education, sociologists and canonists to investigate cases of sexual abuse of minors since 1950. Within two years, according to the commitment made, they will publish a report with the conclusions of these works.

The German church has already done that work and will deliver to Pope Francis a document detailing the 3,677 cases of child abuse registered since 1947.

In Spain, the Episcopal Conference is refusing to review its past and commission an investigation into the cases registered in recent decades. EL PAÍS has repeatedly asked the Spanish ecclesiastical leadership if it was going to gather information to prepare a study similar to that of Germany. This was his response: "The guidelines of the Holy See's directory will be followed, as indicated in the press release of October 16, 2018." In that note only refers to the creation of a reserved commission "which will have, in the first instance, a fundamentally legal aspect", charged with "updating the protocols of action of the Church and drafting a new regulation for the prevention and protection of abuse sexual acts of minors ".

Among the experts that make up this commission, there is no victim or expert on child sexual abuse. The announcement of the Episcopal Conference came after this newspaper published that the Spanish Church has silenced for decades the cases of pedophilia that has met or tried in their ecclesiastical courts.

In Spain, with 23,000 parishes and 18,000 priests today, it has only been possible to learn about sexual abuse in the Church through the denunciations that some victims presented to the civil authorities.

In the last 30 years there are at least 33 convictions of priests in cases opened for abuse of minors with penalties ranging from a simple economic fine to 21 years in prison.

200 complaints

Transparency against pedophilia

The Episcopal Conference seems willing to incorporate into its protocols of action before sexual abuse of minors the obligation to inform the prosecutor of the complaints they know. Until now, it was only indicated that the bishops should invite or recommend the victims or their guardians to come to report the facts to the prosecution. From now on, the Episcopal Conference is ready to raise in its protocols that bishops must obligatorily inform the public prosecutor about the denunciations they receive.

In the last month, EL PAÍS has received more than 200 emails with the story of alleged victims about the abuse they suffered at the hands of priests or religious.

The vast majority of these complaints referred to cases of abuse registered in religious schools dependent on the main religious orders and congregations that exist in Spain. The stories received date from the forties to the nineties.

Most of these crimes, if they occurred, would have already been prescribed and many of the accused priests have died. In Spain, the time of prescription for sexual abuse of minors is 15 years after the victim has reached the age of majority. The Government has announced a legal reform so that these crimes never prescribe.

Despite the Pope's call to a summit in Rome to discuss pedophilia in the Church, the Spanish authorities are reluctant at the moment to commission a report on the magnitude of the problem or to draw up a joint study – as has been done in Ireland – with an independent commission of inquiry that clarifies these facts, recognizes the victims and repairs the damage caused.

Consulted 10 of the main orders, congregations and religious movements in Spain, the vast majority does not plan to make a recount of the cases that have known or processed in recent decades. Only the Jesuits, one of the main orders in Spain and in the world, assure that they are gathering information to do that work: "We are the first interested not only in looking after the future but in clarifying the past and, if it is the case, help to repair the suffering of the victims that there might be. Therefore, our intention is to collect information, and at this moment we are seeing what is the best way to do it. What we do with this information, once we have it, will always be what we see most appropriate for the victims. "

The congregation of the Legionaries of Christ has explained to EL PAÍS that gathering information on pedophilia cases is a task that they have "pending" and "on the table" along with other issues to be addressed in the future.

"We have no record of cases nor are we going to do any study", explained from Hermanos La Salle. This order has stressed that they do not have data that indicate cases of pedophilia in the past, only in recent years, such as the religious Pedro Ramos Maravillas de Madrid school, which last week was sentenced to 130 years in prison.

"No directive"

From the Spanish Confederation of Religious (CONFER) they explain that they have not transferred to the orders and congregations any directive or slogan to carry out such investigations and that if some are doing it "it is because they see that it is something that must be done".

The rest of the orders consulted did not answer the question about whether they were going to carry out or had planned an internal investigation into the pedophilia cases that they have known or instructed in their ecclesiastical courts in recent decades.

As for the updating of the protocols being carried out by the reserved committee of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, the CONFER has clarified that the new norm will be destined for the dioceses – there are 70 in Spain – and not for religious congregations.

If it is presented to the Vatican for approval and it accepts the new protocol, according to the CONFER, "then it will be obligatory for the whole Church in Spain." According to sources of the Conference of Religious, the process of updating the protocols is beginning and that issue has not yet been defined. "The one that reaches or not to the religious depends on the route that is adopted", qualifies said sources.

Pope Francis has only summoned the presidents of episcopal conferences around the world for the pederasty summit to be held in three months in Rome. The representatives of the congregations will not be present, although the agreements that can be reached will affect them directly if the Vatican so decides.

If you know of a case that has not been reported or is not included in this information, you can send it to us through the e-mail address abusos@elpais.es

One problem, eight different protocols

Episcopal Conference (2010): "The ecclesiastical authority invites or advises, at first, the complainants to present themselves the complaint to the Police, the Public Prosecutor or the Court of Instruction, as required by law in this type of crime."

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (2011). "The sexual abuse of minors is not only a canonical crime, but also a crime pursued by the civil authority (…) Upon receiving complaints of possible cases of sexual abuse of minors, bishops must ensure that they are treated according to the discipline canonical and civil law, respecting the rights of all parties. The guidelines must take into account the legislation of the State in which the episcopal conference is located, in particular as regards the eventual obligation to give notice to the civil authorities. "

Company of Jesus (2011): "The provincial or his delegate, even in writing, in any case informs the complainants and the family of their right to denounce before the state authorities and even invites them to do so if the facts reported are serious and minimally credible. If the family doubts or he refuses to take that step for well-founded reasons that seek to avoid further damage to it, the Provincial will ask the family to state the reasons in writing. If it judges that there are no reasons, and the complaint is not presented, the Provincial or his delegate will inform the competent Prosecutor of the facts of which he has been informed.".

Opus Dei (2013): "If in the preliminary investigations it is concluded that the accusations are credible and that there are reasons to believe that a crime has been committed, the Vicar will make sure that the accusations are notified to the civil authorities."

Claretians: "If the procedure reveals the existence of possible infractions, administrative or criminal, will be brought to the attention of the competent authorities, especially in the second case, the prosecutor's office, if appropriate, in order to act in law" .

Augustinian Recollects (2015): "In cases where the criminal action is a private instance, that is, only the interested parties or their parents or guardians can make the complaint, as occurs in some countries, the Major Superior of the accused religious will clearly express to the Interested parties that it is up to them to make the decision to urge or not to initiate such criminal action, by means of accusation or denunciation before the judicial authority of the State "(The Major Superiors will act in relation to the sexual abuse presumably committed by religious clerics of our Order with minors according to the law of each country, in any case, they must distinguish when facing a canonical crime and when facing an offense according to the secular law or against both).

Brothers of La Salle (2016): "When from any La Salle educational work there is suspicion or certainty about a situation of possible risk, abuse or sexual abuse of a minor or adolescent, this situation will be communicated to the student's family, to the social services of the area, to the Educational Inspection and the instances foreseen by the autonomic norm in force.

Protocol of the diocese of Astorga (De 2018): "Our obligation as a diocese is to notify the detected signs and the communication of the data that has been offered to us, it is not necessary to be certain that the child is being abused." This protocol was accepted by at least four other dioceses (Coria-Cáceres, Mérida-Badajoz, Plasencia and Sigüenza-Guadalajara)


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