Spanish university publishes independent report on sex abuse victims in Navarra

Blanca Ruiz   By Blanca Ruiz for CNA


null / Adrian Swancar / Unsplash.

Pamplona, Spain, Feb 14, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The Public University of Navarra has published an independent report in which it identified 52 victims of sexual abuse committed in Catholic schools and institutions in the province since 1948.

The study was presented Feb. 11 at a press conference in which the Regional Government Minister for Migration Policies and Justice, Eduardo Santos, and the investigator from the Public University of Navarra and report coordinator, Mikel Lizarraga Rada, participated.

The report was carried out by the Public University of Navarra in coordination with the Navarra 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.

Lizarraga explained that interviews were conducted with the victims who contacted the university through the channels set up for that purpose.

The investigator and report coordinator said that the data collected “must be understood as alleged since these incidents have not been adjudicated and it has been impossible to compare the information obtained from the interviews with the victims due to the impossibility of accessing the ecclesial archives.”

According to Europa Press, the report interviewed 43 victims and another nine cases were identified through other channels.

“Once the report was finished, in the last week, given the large increase of cases in the press, seven people have contacted us to request to be interviewed and to be included in the future report that will be published, such that we have a figure of about 60 cases of victims of sexual abuse,” Lizarraga explained.

The investigator said  that 31 religious have been identified who committed alleged sexual abuse in 17 schools or religious institutions in 12 municipalities involving 10 congregations, in addition to the archdiocese itself.

Lizarraga explained that the victims are between 60 and 80 years old and after so much time has elapsed since the abuse, many of them have no interest in remembering “events as painful as those suffered in their childhood.”

He also noted that some of the victims have received “letters with obscene or threatening content.”

Santos said that “the Government of Navarra is not acting against anything or against anyone, but rather acts in favor of something. We cannot say that we are talking about very few cases, we are facing the tip of the iceberg of a series of cases that are emerging and that will continue to appear as long as the victims have the courage to take steps, let go of their fear and decide to speak up.”

He also stressed that “the collaboration of the Church is essential” and therefore asked “the Catholic Church to be involved in the commission which may be created, at the national government level, so that we can work together to clarify the facts and recognize the victims.”

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Pamplona y Tudela told Reuters that “everything that contributes to ending this scourge in society is welcome”, and also pointed out that “the Catholic Church has infrastructures to welcome and help victims of all kinds of abuse.”

Since the publication of the motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi in 2019, each diocese and religious institutions has offices for victims in order to facilitate reporting and to confirm the application of the action protocols.

The archdiocese has in place a “Commission for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons” and a contact email for victims to report abuse.

Local cases must be sent to the Navarra Regional Prosecutor’s Office, which will assess whether they are past the statute of limitations, although the institutions could be sued for damages.

According to a report by the independent foundation Aid to Children and Adolescents at Risk, cases of sexual abuse committed by people related to the Church represent 0.2% of the total.

In Spain, three proposals for the creation of commissions to investigate cases of sexual abuse committed by members of the Church are under consideration.

The first proposal was presented by Podemos, a left-wing party that is part of the governing coalition, as well as the Republican Left of Catalonia and EH Bildu, Catalan and Basque nationalist parties that give confidence and supply to the government. This proposal was admitted for debate in the Congress of Deputies Feb. 1.

And on Jan. 31,  the Spain’s Attorney General, Dolores Delgado, requested that the 17 head prosecutors of Spain’s autonomous regional governments remit all open criminal proceedings for sexual abuse committed by members of the Church and other religious groups.

In addition, the PSOE introduced Feb. 7 a proposal in the Congress of Deputies for the investigative commission to be led by the People’s Ombudsman, Ángel Gabilondo.

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