The Spanish Church intends to update its protocols in cases of abuse of minors so that, from now on, bishops or priests are obliged to notify the prosecutor's office of the denunciations they receive. The protocol of the Episcopal Conference valid since 2010 it only indicates that "the ecclesiastical authority invites or advises the victims to denounce the facts themselves before the police, the public prosecutor's office or the court".
For decades, the Spanish church silenced the cases of pedophilia that it knew and instructed in its ecclesiastical courts. He did not communicate these complaints to the prosecutor's office or make public the sentences he dictated in his dioceses.
The Bishop of Astorga, Juan Antonio Menéndez, president of the antipederalist commission composed of 10 experts in criminal law -Who met on Wednesday for the first time-, said yesterday that it intends to update the various protocols in force in the 70 Spanish dioceses so that they comply with the Minors Law approved in 2015. This rule requires the prosecution to be informed of the cases of sexual abuse of minors who are known.
The Bishop of Astorga explains that "it would be a matter of recovering and bringing back everything that the civil and canonical regulations have been issuing these years," he declared on the Cope network. In fact, the Diocese of Astorga approved its own protocol at the beginning of this year where it considered "essential that the Bishopric notify the Public Prosecutor, that information", based on the reform of the Minors Act of 2015.
"We must collaborate in everything that is required by the civil authority in justice and in law. That is, when you have news of a recent case must be reported and collaborate with the civil authority to clarify the facts, "Menéndez explained.
Until now, when the church was aware of a report of sexual abuse, it opened a judicial procedure through its ecclesiastical courts without communicating this circumstance to the civil authorities. The dioceses resolved the file, after ratification by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, without making public the punishment applied to the pedophile priest.
The Conference announced last Tuesday the creation of this reserved committee to update the protocols only 48 hours after EL PAÍS published that the Church had silenced for decades the cases of pedophilia in its midst.
The Bishop of Astorga clarified Abc your intentions about the new protocol. "I guess so [incorporaremos la Ley del Menor de 2015] because what we are looking for is to update the protocol in both civil and canonical matters. We have assumed what has come out lately in both civil and canonical legislation. "
In the reflection on the change of regulations in the Church to act against the abuses of minors, no reference is made at this time to the hardening of the penalties to clerics.
When EL PAÍS asked the bishop of Astorga if the new protocol will incorporate the obligation to communicate the cases to the prosecutor's office, as he himself did a few months ago in the diocese of Astorga, the bishop was prudent: "I can not specify more, it does not depend only of my criteria ".
This solution, does not satisfy progressive prosecutors. Álvaro García, member of the Fiscal Council and member of the Progressive Union of Prosecutors, explained: "This measure would only be used in cases of sexual abuse reported by a minor or his family members to the Church, which is what the Juvenile Law contemplates. But what would happen if the person who takes the case to the church is an adult who denounces abuses that occurred when he was a minor? ".
From semi-public to public
Progressive prosecutors insist that the most effective measure would be a legal reform to change the classification of the offense of sexual abuse of a semi-public (in which only the victim or his guardian can report if he is a minor) to a public crime, in which anyone would be forced to report it.
United Left, who requested together with the other groups of Unidos Podemos the urgent appearance of the Vice President of the Government, Carmen Calvo, so that she clarifies if she is going to repeal the agreements with the Vatican of 1979 that grant privileges to the Church, indicated yesterday that the results of the commission antipederastia of the bishops are "unpredictable". "We believe that past experience already shows that it is not enough, although it is certainly an advance," said a spokesman for IU.
Concordat. In the agreements signed between Spain and the Vatican in 1979, it is established that, "in no case, clerics and religious may be required by judges or other authorities to give information on persons or matters of which they have knowledge by reason of his ministry. "This norm, therefore, frees any bishop from the requirement to give the judge who requests it possible evidence that can help in a sexual abuse trial.
Protocol of action against abuses of the Episcopal Conference. Published in 2010, the rule drafted by the leadership of the Spanish Catholic Church states that "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".
Minors Act of 2015. According to the reform of this norm, "any person who had news, through any source of information, of a fact that could constitute an offense against minors, will have the obligation to inform the Fiscal Ministry without prejudice to the provisions of the criminal procedure legislation ".
Astorga Protocol. In 2018, the bishopric of this diocese of León drafted the one that, until now, is the hardest rule against pedophilia. It states that "it should be the bishopric that notifies the specialized services of this information [denuncias de abusos], the Child Protection Institution and the Public Prosecutor's Office. In addition, the document emphasizes that it is the obligation of the diocese 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.
Canon law. The canonical code establishes that private crimes (such as pedophilia and sexual abuse) must be treated (prosecuted) and punished in the private sphere. (Article 1340.2. "Never impose a public penance for a hidden transgression").
Penalties in ordinary justice. The maximum penalty, according to Spanish justice, for a crime of sexual abuse is prison: from two to 15 years in prison.
Ecclesiastical penalties. The ecclesiastical courts establish sentences ranging from "expiatory penalties to the expulsion of the clerical state" from the priest who has committed a crime of pedophilia.