close
close

Spanish bishops OK abuse of compensation

BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish Catholic bishops approved a plan Tuesday to compensate victims of church sex abuse whose alleged perpetrators have died or whose possible crimes have been condemned, an initiative the government and victims’ associations have said lacks real guarantees.

The Spanish Episcopal Conference has not provided an estimate of how many victims it could help. But last year the conference said it had found evidence of 728 perpetrators of sex abuse in the church since 1945 in its first public report after years of rejecting a comprehensive approach to investigating sex abuse.

According to the conference, about 75% of cases occurred before 1990, and more than 60% of the offenders are dead.

Last year, a study by the Spanish Ombudsman found that the total number of victims, including minors, could be much, much higher.

The president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, Luis Argüello, told a news conference in Madrid on Tuesday that “our work does not begin or end today, but today is important.

“Because most of the cases date back to the 1990s, many of them cannot be prosecuted because of statutes of limitations that limit common law.”

The clergy’s decision follows the approval by the Spanish government last year of a plan that aims to force the church to pay financial compensation to victims of abuse.

The church’s plan includes a plan for “material restitution” for victims, which could include financial compensation and payment for medical or therapeutic services. The church has pledged to make “economic, spiritual and psychological” restitution for victims.

It also includes the Church’s commitment to establishing the truth in cases of alleged sexual abuse, even if the alleged perpetrator is dead.

“There is always the possibility of legal redress, but in the case of cases that have been excluded from ordinary and canon law and cannot be reopened due to the statute of limitations or the death of the aggressor, we believe that the church has a moral obligation towards these people,” said Jesús Díaz Sariego, president of the Spanish Conference of Religious Orders, which, along with the bishops, supports the plan.

Each case will be handled by a newly established board of experts who will advise each diocese on how best to deal with a given victim.

The advisory council will be made up of 10 people, four medical experts, four criminal law experts and a representative of the bishops’ conference and the Spanish Conference of Religious Orders. The new council could then call on a representative of victims’ associations to collaborate with it, the bishops’ conference said.

The church said it also has offices to deal with victims of abuse who may be subject to legal proceedings.

Argüello said the Church had listened to the recommendations of the Ombudsman and victims’ associations, but the Spanish government and some victims’ associations said the plan was insufficient.

“We are not buying the Church’s plan,” Juan Cuatrecases, a spokesman for the Robbed Childhood victims’ association, told Spanish National Radio. Cuatrecases said the plan had no government oversight.

A day before the Church unveiled its plan, the Spanish government issued a statement rejecting what it called a unilateral and ineffective attempt at redress.

The statement said it would not accept the church’s plan because “its resolutions are not mandatory and so in no way guarantee redress.”

Argüello said all 67 bishops who attended the extraordinary meeting in Madrid supported the plan, with only one abstaining on one of the three documents approved.

In only a few countries has the government or parliament launched investigations into clergy sexual abuse, although some independent groups have conducted their own investigations.

Spanish Catholic bishops’ conference president Luis Arguello, right, and Jesus Diaz Sariego, president of the Spanish Conference of Religious Orders, pose for photos just before a news conference in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, July 9, 2024. Spanish Catholic bishops have approved a plan to compensate victims of sexual abuse in the church whose alleged aggressors have died or whose possible crimes have expired. The Spanish government and victims’ associations say the initiative offers no real guarantees. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Spanish Episcopal Conference President Luis Javier Arguello touches his crucifix before a news conference in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, July 9, 2024. Spanish Catholic bishops have approved a plan to compensate victims of sexual abuse in the church whose alleged aggressors have died or whose possible crimes have expired. The Spanish government and victims’ associations say the initiative has no real guarantees. (AP Photo/Paul White)