The Spanish bishops have valued as "valuable" the recommendations proposed by the Ombudsman in his report on sexual abuse within the Church; They say that they will design an itinerary to apply them, but they criticize that the "extrapolation" of the data from the survey --which points out that 0.6% of the Spanish population of legal age has suffered abuse in childhood by priests or religious-- "does not correspond to the truth" and ask not to put the "focus" only on the Church.
This was made clear on Monday by the bishops during an extraordinary Plenary Assembly of the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE), presided over by Cardinal Juan José Omella, archbishop of Barcelona, and in which a total of 88 bishops were present, 31 bishops in person and 57 by videoconference. Also in attendance were the President of CONFER, Jesús Díaz Sariego, the Secretary General Jesús Miguel Zamora and the Deputy Secretary General, Silvia Rozas.
"The abuses committed in the Church hurt. The extrapolation of the data obtained in a survey attached to the report is also surprising. They do not correspond to the truth nor do they represent the group of priests and religious who work loyally and with the gift of their lives in the service of the Kingdom," read a statement released by the Spanish Episcopal Conference at the end of the meeting.
The SEC explains that the bishops "have made a first approximation" to the investigation into the sexual abuse of minors in the Church carried out by the commission headed by the Ombudsman, Angel Gabilondo, who was invited to attend the assembly on Monday but who declined the invitation for personal reasons.
In particular, they have valued "the testimony collected from the victims, which allows the victims to be placed at the centre" and have considered "the recommendations proposed in this report also valuable" although they assure that, "to a large extent, they are convergent with other proposals worked on in the EEC for some time now".
In this regard, the Bishops have decided to entrust the Child Protection Service of the SEC with "the itinerary of the implementation of the recommendations of the Ombudsman, in relation to the channels of reparation, prevention and formation" that will be implemented in the next Plenary Assembly in November.
In any case, the prelates are committed to also addressing abuses in other areas and not only in the Church because, as they say, "failing to take into account the magnitude of the problem and its mostly extra-ecclesial dimension, means not facing the causes of the problem and perpetuating it over time."
They also consider that "focusing exclusively on the reparation of the victims of the Church would discriminate against the majority of victims, turning them into second-class victims."
In addition, they join the request of the Ombudsman who urges the State to implement the recommendations that the report makes to its different institutions, "to assume its responsibility in the joint task of putting an end to this scourge that affects the whole of society".
DECISION ON CREMADES AUDIT POSTPONED
On the other hand, the bishops have "listened" to the request and motivation of the law firm Cremades & Calvo-Sotelo for the extension of the deadline for its audit, commissioned by the SEC a year and a half ago, and have decided to "postpone" to the next Assembly in November "the decision on the entrustment" made to the firm in February 2022.
The bishops present at the meeting expressed their "sorrow for the damage caused by some members of the Church with sexual abuse" and reiterated their "request for forgiveness from the victims", while expressing "the desire to work together in the integral reparation of the victims and to deepen the paths for their protection, their accompaniment and the prevention of abuse."
In any case, they insist that the Ombudsman's study presents a "general vision" of the problem of abuse that "goes beyond the Church" and is "a social problem to which all public and private institutions have the duty to respond."
Likewise, they stress that "a single case of abuse is intolerable" and highlight that the Catholic Church in Spain has been "working for years to put an end to this scourge" and commit "to continue working along the same lines, incorporating these recommendations into its daily effort". "The Church wants to contribute to the eradication of sexual abuse in childhood not only in the Church but in the whole of society and puts its sad experience at the service of society in order to do so, in a spirit of collaboration."
In relation to other information, Bishop Joan Enric Vives informed the members of the Plenary of the invitation extended by the Vatican Dicastery for the Clergy to the members of the Plenary Assembly for a meeting of all the members of the Episcopal Conference in Rome on November 28. This meeting will address the conclusions of the work carried out by the bishops who visited the seminaries in Spain at the beginning of this year.