Spain’s Catholic bishops ask law firm to open independent audit on clerical sex abuse

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Spain’s Catholic bishops have commissioned a law firm to conduct an independent investigation of sex abuse committed by Church members.

The independent audit will be administered by the Cremades & Calvo-Sotelo law firm and is intended to create a “comprehensive report” of all clerical sex abuse cases, ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, reported on Feb. 21.

The move follows an independent study commissioned by the Catholic Church in neighboring France that generated headlines worldwide, as well as a recent high-profile inquiry conducted by a law firm in the German Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

Cardinal Juan José Omella, the president of the Spanish bishops’ conference, will answer questions about the audit together with Javier Cremades, the president of the law firm, at a press conference on Feb. 22.

In addition to a comprehensive report, the investigation is expected to open an independent channel to receive potential complaints and recommend further preventative measures.

The announcement came as three proposals for the creation of commissions to investigate cases of sexual abuse committed by members of the Church were under consideration in Spain.

The first proposal was presented by Podemos, a left-wing party that is part of the governing coalition, as well the Catalan and Basque nationalist parties, the Republican Left of Catalonia and the EH Bildu.

The proposal was admitted for debate in the Congress of Deputies, the lower house of Spain’s parliament, on Feb. 1. The People’s Party and Vox party both voted against the proposal and asked that the commission be broader, to include sex abuse cases that occur outside of the Catholic Church.

Spain’s Attorney General Dolores Delgado requested that the 17 head prosecutors of the country’s autonomous regional governments remit all open criminal proceedings for sexual abuse committed by members of the Church and other religious groups.

The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) introduced a proposal on Feb. 7 in the Congress of Deputies for the investigative commission to be led by the People’s Ombudsman, Ángel Gabilondo.

A smaller-scale report on sex abuse committed in Catholic schools and institutions in the northern Spanish province of Navarre was published by the Public University of Navarre on Feb. 11.

The independent investigation was carried out in collaboration with the Navarre regional government and found that more than 31 priests and members of the Church, as well as 21 teachers, allegedly abused minors in 17 schools and religious institutions since 1948.

Cardinal Omella said following the Spanish bishops’ ad limina visit to Rome in December that he had discussed the issue of abuse with Pope Francis.

“In the face of the issue of abuse, we all feel great pain … All of us bishops have established commissions in each diocese to receive the complaints, to accompany those people who feel wounded, and prevent these things from happening in the future. We have to use all means,” Omella said, according to ACI Prensa.

The request to create a commission investigating cases of sexual abuse by members of the Church came after the newspaper El País delivered a report in December to Pope Francis and the Spanish bishops’ conference with possible abuse cases committed by 251 priests or laity from religious institutions.

The bishops’ conference noted at the time that “it would be desirable for the accusations contained in the aforementioned report to be more rigorous, since its content, of a very disparate nature, makes it difficult to draw conclusions that could be used for a possible investigation.”

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