Bishops: Catholic Church in Spain unjustly singled out in plan to address sexual abuse — By: Catholic News Agency

Archbishop Luis Argüello and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. / Credit: Archdiocese of Valladolid; La Moncloa

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 23, 2024 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The Spanish government approved today in the Council of Ministers a plan to implement recommendations made in a report on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. 

While recognizing some good points in the plan, the Spanish Bishops’ Conference (known by its Spanish acronym CEE) issued a statement strongly objecting to what it called unfair treatment and discrimination against the Church by the government.

Before giving details of the government’s plan, the minister of the Presidency, Justice, and Relations with the Legislature, Félix Bolaños, extrapolating data from a survey commissioned by the People’s Ombudsman, estimated that in Spain there are about 440,000 adults who were victims of sexual abuse as minors, representing 1.13% of the adult population in Spain.

“Around half of these abuses would have been committed by [male] religious of the Catholic Church,” Bolaños claimed.

The bishops, however, noted that “reparation measures cannot be proposed that, following the ombudsman’s report, would leave out nine out of 10 victims.”

Consequently, “the Church cannot accept a plan that discriminates against the majority of victims of sexual abuse,” the bishops emphasized.

Furthermore, the prelates pointed out that “the text presented is part of a condemnatory judgment of the entire Church, carried out without any type of legal guarantee, a public and discriminatory targeting by the state.”

The CEE stressed that “by focusing only on the Catholic Church, it addresses only part of the problem. It’s a biased analysis and covers up a social problem of enormous dimensions.”

For the bishops, the changes in the law provided for in the government’s plan “question the principle of equality and universality that any process that affects fundamental rights must have.”

The plan, which will be in effect until 2027, is structured around five key points: 1) recognize and make reparation, 2) care for victims, 3) prevent, 4) train and raise awareness, and 5) report and investigate the first point.

In addition, the government announced it will organize a public event with the victims of sexual abuse committed within the Catholic Church intended to be a type of “symbolic reparation,” and mechanisms also will be established for material reparation “that it is adequate and that it is sufficient in financial terms.”

During his appearance, Bolaños said that the government’s idea “is to do it in collaboration, hand in hand with the Catholic Church.” Last Friday, he held a meeting with the recently elected president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Luis Argüello of Valladolid.

At that meeting, according to the statement from the Spanish bishops, “the CEE already gave Minister Bolaños its critical assessment of this plan that only focuses on the Catholic Church,” although it expressed its willingness to collaborate “in the areas of its responsibility and competence, but always to the extent that it addresses the problem as a whole.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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