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Scandal in Spain's Catholic Church: one in 200 Spaniards claim to have been sexually abused by priests

Tuesday, October 31st 2023 - 08:56 UTC
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The latest survey of 8,000 people was commissioned by Spain's human rights ombudsman and found that roughly 0.6% of Spain's adult population of around 39 million people said they had been abused. The latest survey of 8,000 people was commissioned by Spain's human rights ombudsman and found that roughly 0.6% of Spain's adult population of around 39 million people said they had been abused.

A new scandal has erupted in Spain when more than one in 200 Spaniards claim they were sexually abused by the Catholic Church when they were minors, according to an official report published in Madrid.

The record of the Spanish Catholic Church is not encouraging, the latest revelation follows on the so called “Stolen Children” campaign, almost a decade ago, when it surfaced that nuns and doctors, with hierarchy blessing, were involved in a massive trade of selling snatched new born babies from single mothers or 'red' wives and widows from the former Republican side, defeated during the Spanish civil war by dictator Francisco Franco.

The latest survey of 8,000 people was commissioned by Spain's human rights ombudsman and found that roughly 0.6% of Spain's adult population of around 39 million people, some 200,000 people, said they had been abused by a priest.

“By being able to quote 0.6% you can see the magnitude of what it can mean in terms of overall abuse,” Ombudsman Angel Gabilondo said.

The figure doubles to 400,000 people — 1.13% of the adult population — when taking into account alleged abuse by lay people such as teachers at Church institutions.

Spain's acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the release of the report was a “milestone” in the country's democratic history.

“Today we are a slightly better country, because a reality that everyone was for years aware of but no one talked about, has been made known,” Sanchez told reporters in Brussels.

The 777-page report also included statements from 487 victims, who stressed “the emotional problems” the abuse has caused them, Gabilondo said. ”There are people who have (died by) suicide... people who have never put their lives back together,“ the ombudsman said.

The report also called for a state fund to be set up to compensate survivors, around 65% of whom are believed to be male.

The Bishops' Conference of Spain did not comment on the report on Friday. However, it will deal with the findings at an extraordinary meeting this week.

Patterns of child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church made world headlines in 2002 after the Boston Globe revealed priests had sexually abused children for decades and church leaders had covered it up.

Since then, the church has faced similar accusations in a number of countries including the United States, Ireland, Australia, France, Germany and Chile.

Almost a decade ago the Spanish society was also shaken by allegations of the theft and trafficking of thousands of babies by nuns, priests and doctors, which started under Generalismo Franco, following his victory in 1936 over the Republican side, a practice which continued up to the 1990s.

The scale of the baby trafficking was unknown until 2012, when two men - Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno, childhood friends from a seaside town near Barcelona - discovered that they had been bought from a nun. Their parents weren't their real parents, and their life had been built on a lie.

Juan Luis Moreno discovered the truth when the man he had been brought to call ”father“ was on his deathbed.

”He said, 'I bought you from a priest in Zaragoza'. He said that Antonio had been bought as well.“

The pair went to the press and suddenly the story was everywhere. Mothers began to come forward across Spain with disturbingly similar stories.

After months of requests, the Spanish government finally put forward Angel Nunez from the justice ministry to talk about Spain's stolen children.

Asked if babies were stolen, Mr. Nunez replied: ”Without a doubt“.

”How many?“ he was asked. ”I don't dare to come up with figures,“ he answered carefully. ”But from the volume of official investigations I dare to say there were many.“ Lawyers believe that up to 300,000 babies were taken.

The practice of removing children from parents deemed ”undesirable“ and placing them with ”approved” families, began in the late 1930s under the dictator Franco.

At that time, the motivation may have been ideological. But years later, it seemed to change - babies began to be taken from parents considered morally - or economically - deficient. It became a money-spinner, too.

The scandal is closely linked to the Catholic Church, which under Franco assumed a prominent role in Spain's social services including hospitals, schools and children's homes.

Nuns and priests compiled waiting lists of would-be adoptive parents, while doctors were said to have lied to mothers about the fate of their children.

Categories: Politics, International.

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