MADRID (AP) — Spanish parliamentarians task the country’s ombudsman with the first official investigation into the extent of sexual abuse committed by members of Spain’s Roman Catholic Church.
All lawmakers except members of a far-right party that holds about 15% of the seats in Spain’s Congress of Deputies, or lower house, backed the proposal put forward by the Socialists and a Basque nationalist party on Thursday.
A separate proposal by three left-wing parties, including junior ruling national coalition partner United We Can, to open a full parliamentary committee was rejected this week as a consensus built around the isolation of investigation of the political sphere.
All three parties ended up supporting leaving the investigation in the hands of ombudsman Ángel Gabilondo, as they said it ensured the church would be held accountable.
Thursday’s vote was momentous because of the increase in heartbreaking public accounts of abuse and the admission of the problem by some Catholic orders and bishops.
The Spanish Bishops’ Conference, which for years has refused to be investigated, announced last month that it would commission a private law firm to carry out a year-long ‘audit’ into past sexual abuse and present. The investigation aims to cover abuses committed by clergy, teachers and others associated with the church.
Spain’s main newspaper, El País, has compiled more than 600 abuse cases involving twice as many victims, although the actual number is thought to be much higher.
Gabilondo, 72, was named head of Spain’s ombudsman’s office in November after a deal between the ruling centre-left coalition and the main opposition conservative party.
A professor of philosophy and a former member of a Catholic brotherhood, he was Spain’s education minister from 2009 to 2011 for a socialist-led administration.
In a tweet, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the investigation is “a first step to try to repair the pain of the victims, who have not been heard until now”.
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