Spain’s bishops said sorry on Monday following a report that suggested over 200,000 children had suffered from sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in the country since 1940.
However, they disputed the report’s numbers.
The report, released last Friday by an independent commission, didn’t specify the exact number of abuse victims but indicated that 0.6 percent of Spain’s adult population (about 8,000 people surveyed) claimed to have experienced sexual abuse from clergy during their childhood.
With Spain’s population of roughly 39 million, this would mean approximately 230,000 victims.
After reviewing the report, the Spanish Episcopal Conference issued a statement saying, “The bishops present have expressed their pain for the damage caused by some members of the Church with sexual abuse and reiterate their request for forgiveness from the victims.”
“The abuses committed in the Church hurt.
The extrapolation made from the data obtained in a survey attached to the report is also surprising,” they added.
“They do not correspond to the truth nor do they represent the group of priests and believers who work loyally and with the dedication of their lives in the service of the kingdom.”
Representatives of the conference were expected to hold a press conference on this matter on Tuesday.
The report, published after 14 months of investigation, revealed cases of abuse dating back to the 1940s, with the majority occurring between 1970 and 1990.
Cardinal Juan Jose Omella, president of the Episcopal Conference, acknowledged on social media that the Church was aware of 1,125 cases of sexual abuse.
In contrast to other countries, where allegations of clerical abuse have gained attention, in Spain, a traditionally Catholic nation that has become increasingly secular, these issues have only recently gained prominence, resulting in claims of cover-ups by survivors.
In March 2022, Spain’s parliament approved the establishment of an independent commission to investigate such cases.
The country’s Catholic Church declined to participate in the probe but provided documents related to sexual abuse cases.
Additionally, it has appointed a private law firm to conduct an “audit” of past and present sexual abuse cases involving clergy, teachers, and others connected to the Church, which is set to be completed by the end of the year.
In recent decades, reports of widespread child abuse within the Catholic Church have surfaced in the United States, Europe, Chile, and Australia, eroding the moral authority of the 1.3 billion-member Church.
In 2021, an independent commission in France found that approximately 216,000 children, mostly boys, had been sexually abused by clergy since 1950.