Thursday, September 21

The Ombudsman confirms that the bishops refused to participate in the investigation into pederasty

The investigation of cases of pederasty in the Church carried out by the Ombudsman has started. The body in charge of carrying out these investigations will have experts in Law, in attention to victims, psychotherapists, prosecutors and the coordinator of the project of the Archdiocese of Madrid will also be present to assist those who denounce abuses. Although they were also invited to participate, the bishops have distanced themselves from these actions, assured the socialist Ángel Gabilondo in Congress on Monday.

Congress approves the commission of the Ombudsman to investigate sexual abuse in the Church

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In total, 20 people will be part of the advisory commission in charge of making a report “with proposals, measures, changes and initiatives that manage to compensate the victims and prevent something like this from happening again.” In his intervention before deputies and senators, the Ombudsman has assured that he has advocated that representatives of the Church be present in this investigation and that he has met with the refusal of the bishops. For Gabilondo, the presence of members of the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) would contribute to achieving a “more fruitful” and “more far-reaching” report.

Finally, and after “different conversations” with the general secretary and the president of the CEE, Luis Argüello and Juan José Omella, “the Church as an institution rejected being part of the advisory commission”, although they assured that “this would not mean stopping collaborating always within the law”. As Gabilondo has detailed, that was the textual response he received from the EEC. A position that, for the appearing party, “seems to indicate some circumstance of the limits” of the collaboration that the bishops are going to provide to the Ombudsman. For his part, he stressed that Jesús Díaz Sariego, president of the Spanish Conference of Religious, has “shown the will to collaborate.”

Congress commissioned the Ombudsman in March with the mission of investigating sexual abuse in the Church. In this way, complaints of cases of pederasty in Catholic institutions will be analyzed for the first time with a mandate from the Lower House. After years of demands from the victims, this initiative went ahead with 286 ‘yeses’, 51 ‘noes’ and two abstentions.

After months working discreetly, Gabilondo gave an account this Monday for the first time of the progress of these tasks before all the parliamentary groups. In his intervention, the Ombudsman explained how this investigation is going to be articulated. From now on, the institution will carry out this mission through “three areas of action”: an expert advisory commission, a forum for dialogue with victims’ associations and a technical unit dedicated to caring for victims and supporting victims. the investigation.

In his speech, Gabilondo explained how it will be constituted and who will be part of each of the organizations promoted by his institution. The Advisory Commission will be made up of 20 people, “of which 17 are external advisors who belong to the professional or academic field with experience in caring for victims, with legal knowledge and in victimology”, the institution highlighted.

The profiles chosen by Gabilondo to investigate abuses in the Church include professors such as Xabier Arzoz Santisteban, María Elena Olmos, Alejandro Saiz Arnaiz, Josep María Tamarit; the lawyers Letizia De la Hoz and Julián Carlos Ríos; prosecutors María Vilches Fernández and María Jesús Raimundo; the university professors Gema Varona, Olga Belmonte García and Noemí Pereda and the psychotherapist Araceli Medrano Samaniego.

Along with them will also be Juan Carlos González, a member of Eshma, organization for the accompaniment of survivors of sexual abuse; Lourdes Menacho, president of the General Council of Official Colleges of Educators and Social Educators; Paula Merelo, author of the book Vulnered Adults in the Church; Ana Laura Zugaza, Member of the Association of Spanish Theologians and Miguel García-Baró, coordinator of the Repara Project of the Archdiocese of Madrid. These specialists will be joined by Gabilondo himself, the Ombudsman’s first deputy, Teresa Jiménez-Becerril, and the second deputy, Patricia Bárcena.

“It’s not about setting up a court or reaching a sentence,” Gabilondo pointed out about the functions and objectives of this commission. Its final mission will consist of preparing a report, which “will be a first step towards the recognition and reparation” of the victims. With this work, whistleblowers must be placed at the center of the work entrusted by Congress, added the Ombudsman.

Taking this approach into account, the second body to be articulated is the forum of associations. A body that “is conceived as a space in which the representatives of the victims’ associations, among themselves and with the person or persons of the Commission that is determined, share their experiences and positions,” Gabilondo pointed out.

The third leg of this investigation will be the technical work unit for victim care. This department will be made up of “people hired to carry out an active listening procedure” and will work “in a specific office in the vicinity of the institution’s premises.” His work will consist of assisting the advisory commission and “it will be made up mainly of psychologists, criminologists and lawyers.”

The initiative led by Gabilondo was proposed in Congress by PSOE and PNV. This proposal obtained a great consensus in Congress. It went ahead with the support of United We Can, EH Bildu, ERC, PNV, PP, Citizens and members of the mixed group such as the BNG. Only Vox was positioned against. The investigation work will be coordinated by the Ombudsman, who will carry out this work through an independent commission that will be in charge of preparing a report.