The Spanish ombudsman has collected testimony from 201 victims as part of its newly launched investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, according to a statement released Tuesday.
The independent probe began a little over two months ago and is Spain’s first official investigation into the depths of abuse and pedophilia at the hands of Catholic clergy.
Of those who have come forward so far, 167 victims were men and 34 women, according to the ombudsman.
“We are satisfied with the rhythm of incoming testimonies and the number of victims who have come to us. But what we really care about is listening to the victims with respect, seriousness, discretion and trust,” said Ombudsman Angel Gabilondo.
When the investigation wraps up, the ombudsman will submit a report with facts, proposals and suggestions to Spain’s parliament.
Since this is the first official investigation, no clear data exists on how widespread sexual abuse has been in Spain’s Catholic Church.
However, Spanish daily El Pais has been collecting testimonies since 2018 and has identified nearly 1,600 victims.
A similar investigation in France found that 3,000 priests and other church officials were responsible for abusing 216,000 children since 1950.
Last year, in a letter to the Vatican, UN human rights experts expressed their “utmost concern” about numerous allegations of sexual abuse around the world and “the measures adopted by the Catholic Church to protect alleged abusers, cover up crimes, obstruct accountability of alleged abusers, and evade reparations due to victims.”
Last month, Spanish daily El Diario published a signed document that showed how the church offered a victim of sexual abuse €17,000 ($17,000) in exchange for his silence.
This year, the Spanish Episcopal Conference also launched its own parallel probe into the issue, and lawyers working on that case told El Diario that the investigation has found “around 30” similar cases of coverup./AA