July 25, 2021

"The Spanish Episcopal Conference must give justice to the victims" | Society

"The Spanish Episcopal Conference must give justice to the victims" | Society


The Jesuit Hans Zollner is one of the main experts in prevention and treatment of cases of abuse of minors by the clergy. Man of the Pope's maximum confidence in this matter, is part of the commission that Francisco created upon his arrival to address an issue that has become the main issue of this pontificate. Proof of this is the historic meeting convened in February at the Vatican with all the presidents of the episcopal conferences of the world. Zollner does not put on hot packs, believes that some countries have advanced a lot and that others, like Spain, can do "much more".

Question. Abuses are the main source of discredit of the current Church. How long do you think it will take to solve this crisis?

Answer. In some countries, we are in a good position to work in the protection of minors and to give justice to the victims. In others, for cultural and political reasons, the issue has not yet reached the level of being evident in public discussion. The Church should be interested in this matter for a long time.

P. Which are the most advanced countries?

In Spain something is already moving, but much remains to be done

R. In the US, Canada and Australia has been spoken for 35 years. In Ireland since 20, in Germany for nine. And in those countries, where there has been greater attention, the Church has also taken more seriously the assumption of measures for prevention and fewer complaints arrive.

P. Has Spain taken the necessary measures?

R. I do not know the situation well. I was there three years ago and we started a work table where the whole Church was represented. Now something is moving, but much remains to be done.

P. At what point is it in relation to Germany?

R. In the general classification the Anglo-Saxons and those of Central Europe are more advanced. And the other European countries have, at least, become aware. I know that the Spanish Church has been committed in some dioceses. But I repeat, I see that the Episcopal Conference has much to do.

P. They have created a commission without victims, without independent experts, there are no politicians and presided over by someone accused of covering up for the victims. Is it a commission or a lifting?

R. The German Episcopal Conference also created a commission that dealt with the issue. It was a step forward. Then the bishops did it in 2010. And three years ago they asked a group of independent experts for an investigation of what happened. The result was presented seven weeks ago. It takes time, but it is accompanied by the awareness of society.

P. And of the Church.

R. Clear. The language to talk about sexuality is important. And the ability to admit mistakes, even if it loses credibility and makes you look bad.

P. What else should the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) do?

It is important to admit mistakes, even if you lose credibility

R. Give justice to the victims and do everything possible so that there are no more abuses in the ecclesial context. Do an intervention, prevention and reception work for the victims. I see that it is necessary to take steps as the French have done, a commission that will deal with all the complaints and work with the victims to listen to their voice. The Spanish Church has many charitable, social, educational institutions … And the training of the staff that works with young people is fundamental.

P. The head of finance of the EEC says that the number of abuses of the Spanish Church is irrelevant.

R. I do not know the cases. I do not know what he's talking about. But we know from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that denunciations come from all countries. So it's not that there is not. I do not know what you consider a reference to compare. Also, I always say that we can not compare with other environments. An abuse committed by a priest has a more serious weight, represents trust in God. And if that confidence is destroyed, it is more serious than in other environments.

P. Is it important to oblige bishops to denounce justice?

R. The line of the Church is to follow the legislation of the country where it is. In Spain it is not mandatory, as in Italy. But there is no legal obligation alone, also moral. In some countries like France it does exist. I would distinguish between an abuse that is consumed in the present, where I do believe that everything should be done to get justice done in court. But if we talk, as is usually the case in 95% of cases, of abuses committed more than 25 years ago, we must be able to respect if the victim does not want to go to the police. Many times he does not want to because it would be difficult to verify the facts before a court about something that happened so long ago. We must assess how the will of the victim is respected and the need for justice.

Being homosexual does not lead to child abuse, the core is the abuse of power

P. But where it is mandatory there are fewer cases.

R. I would not say so much. In addition, it depends on the reliability of the judicial system. In countries where the police or judicial system is corrupt, it is difficult to implement that law.

P. It is not the case of Spain, where perhaps it would be helpful.

R. Yes, you can enter and speak it. But it will be, according to many experts, important to safeguard the right of the victim to decide whether or not to denounce. The measures must be weighted.

P. But in the 2011 guidelines of Benedict XVI that obligation was recognized.

R. Yes, to collaborate with civil authorities.

P. That is not always done in Spain yet.

R. I do not know it well, I think so … But it is necessary that it be done.

P. The Government has announced that it will cancel the statute of limitations for child abuse. Do you think it will be useful?

R. There is also a great discussion here. Why only these crimes? In Germany it does not happen and the minister of justice has pronounced against. The only crime there is imprescriptible is murder. The judicial system of prescription has a meaning. You can discuss an extension, of course. The Church, in fact, has the right to lift that prescription in some cases. It could be regulated like this.

P. What should we expect from the February meeting of the bishops to talk about abuses?

R. I hope it addresses the question of responsibility and transparency, whether it be the bishop or the provincial. Also of the collaboration with the State. In summary, what is the responsibility of each one.

Do not think that this will be resolved as a miracle from one day to the next. We need legislation, attention to guidelines and work for a culture change

P.Going out without concrete measures could be seen as a mere propaganda act?

R. I hope there are concrete things. But do not think that this will be resolved as a miracle from one day to the next. We need legislation, attention to the guidelines and work for a culture change. And that will take time. So for me the main thing is what steps would be followed after the meeting.

P. The conservatives of the Church say that there is a relationship between the high number of homosexuals in the Church and the abuses.

R. The issue is the abuse of power. And the Pope made him present in his Letter to the People of God. It is the core. If it is homosexual or heterosexual it does not lead to abuse. And that's what all psychiatrists, psychologists or therapists like me say. Nor celibacy. The main question is how you live relationships with other people. Not all priests who abuse male children declare themselves homosexual. Formerly there were only relations with males, and that explains part of this phenomenon.

P. The Pope himself has been accused of covering up abuses. Is nobody already untouchable in this matter?

R. The Pope, in a certain way, has allowed himself to be criticized. And that goes in line with everything we've seen for 13 months with the metoo. The gods of Hollywood and sport, which were untouchable until then, despite the fact that people knew that abuses existed, were suddenly bearable. The same happened with the former Cardinal McCarrick, or the archbishop of Adelaide in Australia.

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