Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Spain socialists call for probe into Church child abuse



Spain socialists call for probe into Church child abuse

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Joaquin Benitez, Spanish former gymnastics teacher accused of child abuse charges in a Catholic school in northern Spain, attends his trial at a court in Barcelona on March 25, 2019. AFP

Spain socialists call for probe into Church child abuse

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist party on February 7 asked parliament to set up an expert committee to investigate child sex abuse within the Catholic Church.

Until now, there has never been an official investigation into alleged abuse by members of the clergy, either by the government in Madrid or by the Spanish church itself.

The committee – made up of “experts, representatives of victims’ associations, clergy and public officials” – would compile “the most comprehensive” study of the issue, party spokesman Hector Gomez told reporters.

The panel would report to the state ombudsman.

The aim was to “address an issue which we can no longer afford to ignore . . . while also demonstrating maximum empathy and fairness to the victims,” said Socialist lawmaker Carmen Calvo.

With a total absence of official figures on child sex abuse within the Spanish church, El Pais newspaper began investigating allegations in 2018 and has since received details of 1,246 cases, some dating back to the 1930s.

The Church, which has ruled out any exhaustive investigation and says it has implemented abuse protocols and set up local offices for complaints, has only recognised 220 cases over the past 20 years.

But the situation appears to be changing in this historically religious country, where some 55 percent of the population identifies as Roman Catholic and where 1.5 million children study in some 2,500 Catholic schools.

The government will contact “the Catholic Church to ask for its cooperation” with the committee given that “in other countries, it has been the Church itself that has taken the initiative, as in France”, said Calvo who until last year was one of Sanchez’s deputies.

Last week, Spain’s parliament agreed to consider another request to open an inquiry into such abuses at the request of Podemos, the hard-left partner in Sanchez’s left-wing coalition, and two other parties.

At the time, the Socialists said they would not block the idea, but appeared to be more interested in the idea of creating an independent expert committee, as happened in Australia and the Netherlands.

Gomez said he was optimistic the Socialist proposal would be backed by Podemos and the other parties and would be able to begin operating “as soon as possible”.

Only one of the two proposals will go ahead, and to move forward, will need to be voted through a plenary session by a simple majority of lawmakers. No date has yet been set for any such vote.

The political impetus for an investigation came after Catalan writer Alejandro Palomas went public for the first time about being abused when he was eight by a priest at his school.

In an unusual step, Sanchez reached out to him on Twitter and met with him last week.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Angkor photo rules clarified

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) denied that it had banned the use of camera tripods in the Angkor Archaeological Park, explaining that the confusion stemmed from a long-standing rule which required commercial photographers and videographers to apply for permission to film. The explanation followed a

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At