| 8 December 2023, Friday |

One in 200 Spaniards may have been abused by Catholic priests, rights ombudsman reports

Over one in 200 Spaniards may have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic Church priests. This suggests a considerably higher national victim count than in prior studies of this kind, according to a survey published on Friday.

About 8,000 people were questioned in the survey conducted by Spain’s human rights ombudsman, which was included in a report that was given to lawmakers on Friday. The Church was criticized in the study for attempting to “minimize the phenomenon” and for not collaborating with the probe more thoroughly.

Ombudsman Angel Gabilondo said 0.6% of the survey sample said they had been abused by a priest, a figure that rose to around 1.1% when including abuse by lay people such as teachers at Church institutions.

“By being able to quote 0.6% you can see the magnitude of what it can mean in terms of overall abuse,” he told a press conference after delivering the report. Spain’s population is around 48 million.

A spokesperson for the Church in Spain declined to comment on the report.

The Church has faced sexual abuse scandals in several countries including the United States, Ireland and France, and an internal investigation in Spain published in June identified 728 alleged abusers and 927 victims there since the 1940s.

That followed a 2021 report in El Pais newspaper that identified more than 1,200 alleged cases.

The ombudsman’s report, which found that nearly 65% of those abused were male, also called for the creation of a state fund to compensate victims.

Commenting on the findings, Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told journalists: “For many years there have been many people who have suffered for not being able to denounce, to explain, to make human dramas visible.”

Fernando Garcia-Salmones, a 62-year-old tourist guide from Madrid, who said he was raped by a priest from his school when he was 14, told Reuters he could now turn the page.

He took the case to court in 1995 but it was thrown out on statute of limitations grounds.

He hoped the report would put “an end to this impunity, this silence and this immorality on the part of the whole nation with regard to the sins of the church.”

  • Reuters