An independent commission in Spain has estimated that over 200,000 minors have been sexually abused by the Roman Catholic clergy since 1940, with over 0.6% of Spain’s adult population (around 39 million people) reporting suffering sexual abuse by clergy during their childhood.
When lay members’ abuse is included, this percentage increases to 1.13%, equating to over 400,000 individuals, according to Spain’s national ombudsman, Angel Gabilondo, who presented the findings.
These revelations have sent shockwaves through Spain, a traditionally Catholic country that is becoming increasingly secular. Unlike in some other countries, accusations of clerical abuse in Spain are relatively recent, with survivors accusing the Church of stonewalling. Gabilondo pointed out that there has been a tendency to deny or cover up these abuses for many years.
The report is highly critical of the Catholic Church’s response to cases of child abuse involving the clergy, deeming it “insufficient.” It recommended the establishment of a state fund to provide reparations to the victims.
Before presenting the report to parliament, the Spanish bishops conference announced it would convene an extraordinary meeting to discuss the findings.
The Spanish parliament approved the creation of this independent commission in March 2022, led by the country’s ombudsman. The Catholic Church initially refused to conduct its investigation but cooperated by providing documents on abuse cases collected by dioceses.
It later commissioned a private law firm to conduct an “audit” into past and present sexual abuse cases, which should be completed by the end of the year.
However, media investigations, such as one by El País, have revealed a larger scope of abuse and the number of victims. The Church’s abuse crisis, which gained international attention in 2002 when the Boston Globe exposed widespread abuse and cover-ups, has had profound implications for the institution’s moral authority worldwide.
Similar revelations have been reported in France, Germany, Ireland, and other countries.