After months of refusing to do so, Spain’s Catholic Church has reportedly launched an investigation into the alleged sexual abuse of hundreds of children by its clergy members going back some 80 years.
El Pais reported that an investigation into abuse allegations against 251 priests will be conducted. This newspaper discovered the allegations after three years of investigation.
While the total number of victims is estimated to be around 1,237 according to the paper, this could increase into the thousands. The allegations cover some 31 religious orders and run across 31 of the country’s some 70 dioceses. According to the latest case, it was in 2018, while 1943 is considered to be the oldest.
According to El Pais, the investigation will be carried out by the Spanish Episcopal Conference (SEC), a high-ranking body of the country’s bishops headed by Cardinal Juan Jose Omella, the archbishop of Barcelona.
It has yet to publish its full findings, but the paper said that the 385-page dossier on the subject was presented to Pope Francis by the Vatican when the Pontiff traveled to Rome following a trip to Cyprus.
Matteo Bruni (Vatican spokesman) stated that the Vatican had received and transmitted the report to the Pope. “competent bodies so it could proceed according to current Church law.” Reuters noted that the documents could also be reviewed by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which investigates sexual abuse.
In a report earlier this year, SEC stated that over 220 child sexual abuse cases had been reported to Vatican in the past 20 years. This includes 76 accusations against priests, and 144 against members from various religious orders. However, it did not include allegations against lay members or workers in religious institutions.
In recent months, victims’ rights groups have called for an independent probe similar to the high-profile investigation in France earlier this year that found members of the French Catholic Church had abused as many as 330,000 victims since 1950.
Spanish officials have not yet done so. This suggests that child abuse is an even larger problem in society.