Madrid, Oct 27 (EFE).- Over 230,000 people in Spain were abused by Catholic priests as children, according to a report by the Spanish Ombudsman that was published on Friday.
The investigation on sexual abuse in the country’s Catholic Church, commissioned by the Spanish parliament, brings together the testimonies of 487 alleged victims.
The report was delivered by Ángel Gabilondo to the president of the Congress of Deputies Francina Armengol on Friday, one year and a half after it was ordered.
The over 700-page document urged the creation of a state fund to compensate the alleged victims and accuses the Catholic Church’s hierarchy of having denied and concealed these crimes for decades.
While the investigation did not provide the total number of potential victims of abuse, it revealed that 0.6% of Spain’s 39 million-strong population have allegedly suffered sexual abuse by a priest before turning 18.
That translates to an estimated 236,500 people who were allegedly abused by priests when they were minors.
The survey, for which over 8,000 people were interviewed, found that 1.13% of Spaniards (around 445,000 people) were abused by staff or teachers at religious centers.
According to the report, 84% of the alleged victims interviewed were men.
In total, 11.7% of Spaniards have suffered sexual abuse before turning 18, the report found.
Only a tiny fraction of the abusers have been tried in court. Most of those accused of abuse continued in their positions or were transferred, and just a few were judged by Church authorities.
The Ombudsman criticized the Church’s response that has been characterized “for a long time” by denial or minimization of the problem.
“Some victims have had to face not only denial and concealment, but even pressure and reactions from Church representatives in which they were blamed for the abuses suffered,” Gabilondo said.
At a press conference, he described the Church’s response to the victims as “insufficient and dilatory” and criticized common behaviors such as the transfer of alleged abusers to other parishes, schools and countries.
The “Zero Tolerance” Platform for victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church criticized the “terrible quality” of the study presented by the Spanish Ombudsman and its “disappointing” results.
“The final number (of victims) is probably even higher,” Miguel Hurtado, sexual abuse survivor and member of the platform, told EFE.
“The recommendations are insufficient and weak; victims and international experts have not been listened to. It is a scandal that they didn’t request that pedophilia crimes become imprescriptible,” he added.
The investigation has forced the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) to announce an extraordinary plenary assembly for Monday.
At the meeting, the bishops will analyze the report and discuss the request by Cremades & Calvo Sotelo, the law firm in charge of a separate report commissioned by the CEE, to postpone the delivery date to present the study.
The lawyer’s office has already exceeded the Oct. 20 deadline given by the bishops.
Sources from the law firm said an executive summary would be delivered in November while the report would be presented by the end of the year. EFE