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Spanish Church Sexual Abuse Affected 200,000 Children, Commission Finds

More than 200,000 children are estimated to have suffered sexual abuse from Spain’s Catholic clergy, an independent commission has found.

The details emerged from an unprecedented public investigation by Spain’s ombudsman, who spoke of the “devastating impact” on victims.

Angel Gabilondo also criticised the Church for its inaction and attempts to cover up or deny the abuse.

“What has happened has been possible because of that silence,” he said.

The 700-page report, which was ordered by Spain’s Congress last year, reveals the result of a survey that the commission carried out on 800,000 members of the public.

It found that 0.6% of the country’s adult population, roughly 39 million people, said that they had suffered sexual abuse as children by members of the clergy.

That percentage rose to 1.13%, more than 400,000 people, when including alleged abuse by lay people in institutions overseen by the Church.

Mr Gabilondo said the numbers should be treated with caution.

The report also included statements from more than 487 people who suffered abuse, who stressed the emotional toll it had taken.

“There are people who have [died by] suicide… people who have never put their lives back together,” said Mr Gabilondo.

“It is necessary to provide a response to a situation of suffering and loneliness that for years has remained, in one way or another, covered by an unfair silence.”

The ombudsman proposed the creation of a state fund to provide victims of abuse with compensation.

The official inquiry into child sex abuse in Spain’s Catholic Church followed an investigation by the El Pais newspaper, which began in 2018 and has since created a database of more than 1,000 alleged cases of abuse.

A report into its findings was published in 2021.

While Mr Gabilondo said on Friday that the Church did cooperate with the commission to a certain extent, he highlighted its lack of interest in assisting with the report and the hostility of bishops in some dioceses.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the report’s findings were a “milestone” in the country’s democracy.

“We are a better country because a reality that everyone knew about for many years, but nobody talked about, at least not in the terms that we are doing so today, has been made known,” he said.

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