Spain’s Catholic bishops have issued an apology following the release of a report that estimated over 200,000 minors had been sexually abused by members of the country’s Roman Catholic clergy since 1940. The report, conducted by an independent commission, found that 0.6 percent of Spain’s adult population claimed to have suffered sexual abuse by clergy during their childhood. The Spanish Episcopal Conference, however, disputed the numbers mentioned in the report, stating that they do not correspond to the truth.
The report, published on Friday after 14 months of investigation, did not provide a specific number of abuse victims but indicated that approximately 230,000 individuals could have been affected. The majority of the cases detailed in the report occurred between 1970 and 1990, although some date back to the 1940s.
In response to the report, the Spanish Episcopal Conference expressed their remorse for the harm caused by some members of the Church and reiterated their request for forgiveness from the victims. The conference also highlighted that the extrapolation of data from the survey attached to the report was surprising and did not represent the entire group of priests and believers who serve faithfully.
Cardinal Juan Jose Omella, president of the Episcopal Conference, acknowledged that the Church was aware of 1,125 cases of sexual abuse. Unlike in other countries, allegations of clerical abuse in Spain have only recently gained traction. In March 2022, the country’s parliament approved the creation of an independent commission to investigate such cases. The Catholic Church in Spain declined to participate in the probe but provided documents related to instances of sexual abuse. Additionally, the Church has commissioned a private law firm to conduct an audit into past and present cases of sexual abuse, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The widespread abuse of children within the Catholic Church has been reported in various countries, including the United States, Europe, Chile, and Australia, undermining the moral authority of the Church. In France, an independent commission concluded in 2021 that approximately 216,000 children, mostly boys, had been sexually abused by clergy since 1950.