Madrid, Spain, Mar 15, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).
Addressing the 506 cases of clerical abuse that the Spanish Bishop’s Conference has on record, conference spokesman Bishop Luis Argüello, expressed the Church’s will that “the truth shine forth” both for reparations for the victims, and that the thousands who serve in the Church do not unjustly live under “permanent suspicion.”
Bishop Argüello, who is also secretary general for the conference, reported the results of the 258th meeting of the conference’s commission on sexual abuse regarding the progress promoted by the Church in Spain for the prevention and fight against sexual abuse.
The prelate noted that “all initiatives that allow unmasking, addressing and ending the scourge of abuse in society and in the Church always have the support of the Church and the Christian communities.”
He pointed out that beginning two years ago, the Church in Spain has opened 202 offices in the dioceses and religious congregations to receive complaints and investigate cases of “abuses committed by some members of the Church.”
He explained that the offices also receive “reports of abuses committed in the past,” and that when abuses committed in the present become known, “they immediately have the protocols, the instruction to communicate these complaints to the civil authorities, as has in fact been done in the cases that have occurred, especially in the 21st century.”
Bishop Argüello said that this effort “has allowed them to learn firsthand of the drama of 506 people to whom we offer, have offered, and want to offer in the future, recognition and reparation.”
The spokesman said that the offices were created to prevent the abuse of minors and to receive the victims.
“They are also in charge of establishing action and training protocols for the protection of minors and protection from abuse,” he added.
The prelate stated they have 60 diocesan and interdiocesan offices since “some of the 70 dioceses have been grouped into ecclesiastical provinces.”
He explained that the interdiocesan offices have a “reception place, an email, an address in each of the 70 dioceses.”
In addition, he pointed out that 142 offices were opened in the 121 religious congregations in the country.
Bishop Argüello said that at the offices “information or complaints have been received about 506 cases of abuse,” which “include those recently received from the dossier offered by the newspaper El País.” He added that some of the 251 cases reported by the Spanish media “had already been received at the offices, others had not.”
The secretary general of the bishops’ conference explained that “some of these cases are already known,” others “made their way through the civil and canonical spheres,” and “others have been recognized recently from the complaints presented at the offices or through the media.”
The prelate noted that “cases are investigated at the offices regardless of the statute of limitations or the death of the accused” and that “of these 506 cases, there are 103 people who are already deceased.” Likewise, he said that 300 “are due to complaints that have occurred more than 30 years ago.”
However, he stressed that all cases that arrive are investigated, even those that are already inactionable “both civilly and canonically”, because the objective is “to know the circumstances of what happened.”
“The complaints refer to clerics, priests, diocesan priests, religious priests, ordained religious, religious who have not been ordained and are popularly called ‘brothers’, and lay people who have some task or work within the Church,” he said.
Finally, the prelate noted that “the Church remains committed to developing training processes that prevent as far as humanly possible that this situation should occur in the present, as well as in the future, as well as to remove those people who show that they are unworthy.”
Likewise, he stressed that the objective is also to safeguard the integrity of the members who worthily fulfill their mission with dedication and don’t deserve to live under suspicion or accusation.
“We want the truth to shine forth so that there are no wolves that disguise themselves as lambs and are shepherds,” he said.
“But also, so that tens of thousands of people who give their lives and have done so throughout all these decades in educational, catechetical, and missionary activity are not subjected to permanent suspicion and that it can’t be said, because it is manifestly unjust, that the Church is an unsafe place for children, adolescents and young people,” the spokesman for the Spanish Bishops’ Conference concluded.
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