A Spanish law firm has been tasked by the country’s bishops with an independent investigation into sexual abuse by clergy.
The investigation will be conducted by a team of 18 people, including former high-ranking judges, but also specialists in psychology and representatives from the world of culture.
Heading the commission will be Javier Cremades, a lawyer who is also a member of Opus Dei. Cremades has vowed to liaise closely with the government during the investigation and rejects accusations of bias. “I am a Catholic and a member of Opus Dei, yet I am fully convinced that the Church should get to the bottom, investigate, ask for forgiveness and rectify whatever necessary,” he said, during a press conference with the head of the Spanish Bishops Conference Cardinal Juan José Omella, Archbishop of Barcelona.
Javier Cremades says the commission will be modelled on the German investigation, and will also incorporate best practices of other countries. His team will be contacting all the victims currently identified by different diocesan structures and hopes to present a report within a year.
“We will visit every diocese, see what they are doing and gather opinions and recommendations on what is going on, including in religious schools and orders”, said Cremades.
The final report will paint a picture of the situation in the Spanish Church, and include suggestions to improve its response to abuse cases. No guarantees of compensation have been made, although Cremades did say: “We are only just beginning, but could anybody think, from a legal perspective, that if we identify damages there won’t be compensation?”
The Church in Spain has been accused of dragging its feet, and only setting up this commission after left-wing parties threatened to launch a parliamentary inquiry. But Cardinal Omella said, at the press conference, that the Church “wants to fulfil its obligation of social transparency, to help and compensate the victims, and to cooperate with the authorities on cases of sexual abuse that affect the Spanish Church”.
The bishop of the Canary Islands, however, has asked that the issue of sexual abuse in Spain not be seen as a Church problem. José Mazuelos asks if the current narrative is aimed at “eliminating this social scourge” or merely “lashing out at the Church”.
“Investigate everything, not just the Church”, he asks, insisting that the Church is not hiding cases. “Several people have been convicted, and they are currently in jail. The thing is, they want to show that there are more cases than actually exist. If this is all there is, then it is all there is, we’re not hiding anything”.
A member of the Spanish Government has meanwhile accused the Spanish judicial system of being complicit in coverups of sexual abuse by clergy. Victoria Rosell, state delegate for Gender Violence in Spain, who left her position as a judge to run for office with the far-left Podemos party, told a news programme that she had experienced pressure to dismiss such cases, with veiled threats such as “you know what to expect if you proceed”.