March 7, 2021

The management of the abuses of the Spanish Church worries in the Vatican | Society

The management of the abuses of the Spanish Church worries in the Vatican | Society

The Holy See has for a long time looked askance at Spain. The scandals of abuses that have arisen in Germany, Ireland or even France they have not had correspondence until now in a country where the Church has been involved in all educational sectors for decades. Eight years have passed since the Vatican, then, under the mandate of Benedict XVI, he published guidelines for the prevention and treatment of abuse in Spain (as in so many countries). Among other things, it was called to transfer the cases to civil justice, but in Spain some complaints have not even come from the bishops who knew them. The reality observed in Rome is that almost no Spanish diocese has done anything to seriously apply these norms and the recently created commission does not have elements to be taken into consideration.

The Vatican refuses to offer statistics detailed and broken down by countries of the cases that arrive increasingly in the last year to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body that investigates and punishes these crimes. Neither publishes the decisions taken, which would allow knowing the jurisprudence followed. The average from Spain, being quite high, is not excessively higher than that of other countries of the European Union. But sources consulted for this report (from Spanish and Vatican ecclesiastical authorities) consider the treatment that has been done for years inadequate and they maintain that after the new denunciations appeared, they will increase, as it has already happened in other countries (in 2017 410 complaints came from all the world). To date they do not respond to the same geographical or human pattern, as happened in Germany, Mexico or Boston. But there is suspicion, according to sources from the Holy See, that they are more than those that are transmitted.

The hot cloths do not convince. And some more authoritative voices of the Vatican in this matter believe that the commission created by the Spanish Episcopal Conference is useless. Especially having placed in such a delicate moment -labuses have become the crucial theme of the pontificate and a personal priority of Francisco– The Bishop of Astorga, Juan Antonio Menéndez, as president of the same. A prelate known for inadequately instructing the prescribed sexual assaults of a priest from La Bañeza (León) that hid the public opinion. Despite having in its diocese one of the few protocols that require to denounce cases of abuse to the ordinary courts, its willingness to influence the rest of the Spanish episcopate in the implementation of measures that effectively protect the childhood and pursue sexual crimes committed by the clergy.

Cases like the one in Chile have stimulated the increase in complaints that arrive in Rome, which this year could almost be doubled

The creation of this commission is perceived as an operation of "image washing" above all a way of doing to date. An improvised departure before the historic meeting of bishops next February in the Vatican called by Francisco to address the issue of abuse. "The best thing so that something is not known is to create a commission", ironiza a high religious representative of the curia. When the Pope meets every week with victims in the Vatican and has lived with them in his residence in Santa Marta, they also show less gestures and empathy in Spain, says a Spanish bishop who frequents the Holy See. The malaise also reaches some important Spanish ecclesiastics, who consider "unserious" that the commission has people like Silverio Nieto, controversial for his participation in the case of abuse of the school Gaztelueta (was accused by the victims of "cheating"), or other canonists who are not experts in criminal law, such as Jorge Otaduy and Carlos Morán.

The problem, moreover, is that it is a poor body in its representation: there are no independent experts and some people argue that it would be much more effective if it tended towards a mixed commission with the Spanish civil authorities. A platform where victims and some representative of the State could participate, since the legislation in the matter does not belong only to the Church. Exactly, in one of the crucial points that the associations and authorities in the matter indicate, like the archbishop of Malta and ex-promoter of Justice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Charles Scicluna, -the legal obligation of the Church to denounce civil justice any case- it will not be possible to reach any progress without the corresponding states.

The investigations stimulate the increase of denunciations

The investigations carried out by the Vatican, especially the case of Chile, where the bishops resigned in full when demonstrating the scandal of the multiple abuses of the priest Fernando Karadima and the systematic hiding of Bishop Juan Barros, have stimulated the increase in denunciations in the last year. Transparency regarding the number of procedures, convictions and acquittals is conspicuous by its absence. But if they usually arrive about 500 demands to the Vatican for Delicta Gravioria -And the vast majority are confirmed-, this year it would reach a figure close to double. It would not be a historical record, but it would be the highest in the last decade. It is not that there are more cases, but that the expeditious and exemplary resolution of cases like Chile have increased the confidence of the victims in the system at the time of denouncing.

The main problem, according to what Vatican experts like Hans Zollner often contemplate – he has also declared that the Spanish espiscopado could do more in this question -, is the lack of formation and of mentality in the fight against the abuses. Too many cases have been silenced for years, even by the bishops, who have prevented them from reaching Rome claiming there was no complaint, in order to avoid the scandal. However, this argument would not be accepted, since the mere appearance in the press of a complaint, a legal figure called "notitia criminis", As this newspaper is carrying out in recent weeks, is already considered sufficient reason for the opening of an investigation.

Spain, like the Latin American countries, remains in the orbit of the backward states in this matter. The most advanced countries in prevention and reporting are the Anglo-Saxons and Germany, France and the Netherlands, where almost all cases are reported. The other area of ​​the fight against abuse is Africa and Asia, where almost nothing is reported. That will be the great challenge of the Church in the coming years.


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