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One in 200 Spaniards may have been abused by Catholic priests, reveals survey

Madrid: More than one in 200 Spaniards may have been sexually abused by Catholic Church priests, a survey released on Friday suggested, pointing to a far greater number of victims nationwide than previous similar investigations.

The survey by Spain’s human rights ombudsman, part of a report presented to parliament on Friday, questioned just over 8,000 people. The document criticised the Church for not cooperating more fully with the investigation and seeking to “minimise the phenomenon”.

Ombudsman Angel Gabilondo said 0.6 per cent of the survey sample said they had been abused by a priest, a figure that rose to around 1.1 per cent when including abuse by lay people such as teachers at Church institutions.

“By being able to quote 0.6 per cent you can see the magnitude of what it can mean in terms of overall abuse,” he told a press conference after delivering the report. Spain’s population is around 48 million.

A spokesperson for the Church in Spain declined to comment on the report.

The Church has faced sexual abuse scandals in several countries including the United States, Ireland and France, and an internal investigation in Spain published in June identified 728 alleged abusers and 927 victims there since the 1940s.

That followed a 2021 report in El Pais newspaper that identified more than 1,200 alleged cases.

The ombudsman’s report, which found that nearly 65 per cent of those abused were male, also called for the creation of a state fund to compensate victims.

Commenting on the findings, Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told journalists: “For many years there have been many people who have suffered for not being able to denounce, to explain, to make human dramas visible.”

Fernando Garcia-Salmones, a 62-year-old tourist guide from Madrid, who said he was raped by a priest from his school when he was 14, told Reuters he could now turn the page.

He took the case to court in 1995 but it was thrown out on statute of limitations grounds.

He hoped the report would put “an end to this impunity, this silence and this immorality on the part of the whole nation with regard to the sins of the church.”

(Published 27 October 2023, 16:52 IST)

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