Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Spanish abuse report challenged over figures and procedures

 Spanish abuse report challenged over figures and procedures

The head of the polling firm which conducted a survey for a government inquiry into Church abuse in Spain says media estimates of a potential 440,000 victims are “a statistical delusion”.

Narciso Michavila’s company GAD3 conducted the poll for “A Necessary Response”, a 779-page report presented to the Spanish parliament on 27 October by the national ombudsman.

According to the survey of 8,013 Spaniards, 0.6 per cent of respondents had suffered abuse from a priest or member of a religious order. That number rose to 1.13 per cent including abuse by lay Church employees.

“A single case of abuse is intolerable,” said the Spanish Bishops’ Conference in response, but they rejected estimates drawn from the survey of a potential 440,000 victims

According to Michavila, that number “does not add up”. Speaking on COPE, the bishops’ conference-owned radio station, he said: “The vast majority of crimes of pederasty in Spain took place in the 1960s and 1970s. In Spain at that time, there were simply not enough priests to have committed so many crimes.”

There were 72,000 priests and religious in Spain at that time.

A group of lay Catholics meanwhile revealed they had “faked” an abuse story printed in the parliamentary report.

Alfredo Fernández, the spokesman for E-Cristians, told the Spanish newspaper ABC that in 2022, the group had invented an abuse victim.  E-Cristians wrote to the parliamentary inquiry’s victim unit from a false email address, claiming that “Sergio Gámez” had been sexually abused as a teenager, by a catechist in a Madrid parish in 1991.

E-Cristians passed the email to the Spanish daily El País, which published the details on 7 July, although “Sergio” had not responded to a request to speak to the newspaper over the telephone.

The Spanish Bishops’ Conference also gave the account from “Sergio” to the parliamentary inquiry, which included the it as “Testimony 359” in the report.

Fernández said no one had double-checked the story. “Our only objective was to verify whether there was any truth to suspicions about the modus operandi of these investigations,” he said.

“The focus should be on the inquiry’s poor procedures which we have managed to demonstrate. We do not want in anyway to denigrate the true victims, who certainly exist and that is very painful.”

Last week, the bishops’ conference announced a draft “holistic plan” to compensate abuse victims, now including cases where the priest-perpetrator had died or there was a civil statute of limitation. It had previously refused to consider such cases.

The conference’s secretary general Bishop Francisco Garcia Magán said they would “have to be examined on a case-by-case basis”.

Pope Francis met with the Spanish bishops on Tuesday to discuss the results of an apostolic visitation of the country’s seminaries conducted early this year.