The Society of Jesus has recognized this Thursday that at least 81 minors and 37 adults have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of 96 members of his order since 1927, the most distant date to which the first internal investigation of a Catholic institution has been traced in Spain. It has taken two years, it follows the example of transparency set in motion, for example, in the Church of France, Ireland or Germany, and began as a result of the information from EL PAÍS and other media. “We feel shame, pain and regret,” declared Antonio España, provincial of the order at the presentation of the report in Madrid.
The vast majority of these cases, registered in schools, were not known until now and that is why it is a piece of information called to burst the few known statistics on the abuse of minors in the Spanish Catholic Church. The accounting carried out by this newspaper, in the absence of official data and the refusal of dioceses and orders to investigate the phenomenon, indicates so far 123 cases since 1986, with almost 400 victims. They are figures extracted from judicial proceedings and newspaper archives. Of these, only eight cases involved Jesuits, and if now only this order admits 81 victims at once, it is clear that the known count hardly reflects a part of the reality of the scandal, pending that the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE ), dioceses and religious orders undertake a similar internal investigation.
The accounting of cases in Spain of EL PAÍS: 123 since 1986
The congregation has provided an essential context data: its 96 defendants represent 1.08% of the 8,782 Jesuits who have passed through the congregation since 1927. If that data were extrapolated to other congregations and to the Spanish Church in almost a century the data they would shoot up. The only study published in Spain in 1996, by Félix López Sánchez and edited by the Ministry of Social Affairs, estimates that 4.17% of priests and religious could be responsible for abuses, in line with statistics from the United States and others. countries. The Jesuits themselves, who admit that it is “a limited study”, assure that they do not know how many of all these cases are new, not published before in the media. They only indicate that the cases of 13 defendants were not in their files and have appeared in the investigation thanks to testimonies from victims. It is about seven Jesuits alive and six deceased.
Research started in 2018
The investigation, which began in December 2018 with a first study in Catalonia, marks a before and after in the response of the Church in its action against the cover-up of abuses. Initiatives like this are the ones that the victims have been demanding for years from the EEC to promote a similar investigation in the 70 Spanish dioceses. There have been isolated actions and the very structure of the Church complicates a unique task, each bishop and each order acts on their own, depending on their sensitivity to the problem. The diocese of Cartagena opened an investigation of cases committed since 1950. The diocese of Bilbao did the same and found only three cases. The one from Solsona undertook a study since 1930. All the ones from Catalonia announced an internal investigation.
The Jesuits have collected data from their archives, from media information, and from internal testimonies and from victims, who have contacted them in the last two years, through listening commissions and an email electronic. Of the nearly 100 accused of abuse, only 25 are still alive, 17 of them accused of child abuse. The Company details that 15 other defendants were exonerated, although only some by the courts and the rest in canonical processes. In the cases where there is data, since many have been lost, the victims who were minors were 46 boys and 18 girls.
The autonomous communities with the most cases of child abuse are Andalusia (14), Catalonia (10), the Basque Country (10), Madrid (eight), Navarra (six), Asturias (three) and Castilla y León (three). The superior of the order, who has apologized “for the mistrust generated”, has admitted that the Company was silent for decades and did not listen to the victims. The report reads: “We feel the pain of the victims, caused by some of our colleagues. We are sorry for the occasions in which those who wanted answers were not listened to and in which accusations were insufficiently dealt with, which should supposedly take sharp measures (…) Abuses of minors and adults in the Church and in society have been for too long time a poorly understood and managed reality ”.
Another important novelty is that the Jesuits recognize that in seven of these cases the congregation paid “financial aid” to the victims, for therapies or support, although it has pointed out that they do not consider them compensation, since there has been no judicial process for means, medium. It is the first time that a religious institution admits this practice. This newspaper revealed the first two known cases in Spain of payments victims of abuse: in the abbey of Montserrat, 7,200 euros, and the Jesuits to a victim in Salamanca, 72,000 euros in 2002. Later, in February 2020, the Marists became in the first order to agree to compensation with 31 victims from its centers in Catalonia, after a judicial procedure. However, only one of the 18 denounced teachers was prosecuted at the trial, who was finally sentenced to 21 years in prison.
In its investigation, the order classifies as abuse behaviors that range “from inappropriate language or provocations, to touching (these are most of the cases that we have evidence of) and in some cases sexual relations.” Antonio Allende, Jesuit education delegate, has acknowledged that the victims and the media have made the truth come to light: “It was not us who made the abuse known, it was the people who suffered it, and we must thank you for taking this step. The basic answer we must give is: we believe what you say. We must focus not on the defense of the institution, but on the recognition of the victims. With truth, reparation and justice ”.
Only four cases reached the civil justice
The most recent case that the order says it is aware of was committed in 2012. The latest complaint, which refers to an old case, reached them in 2020 and is currently being investigated. In the past, only four canonical processes were carried out which, according to the Spanish Jesuits, “ended with the suspension of the exercise of the ministry of the accused and his confinement in isolated communities”. Only four were civilly tried: one of them was dismissed, another was in the 80s, a third took place in 2006 (it is about abuse of an adult) and the last is pending trial. There is also another canonical process underway. In the rest of the cases there were only “internal canonical disciplinary measures”. Of the 65 accused of pedophilia, six were expelled from the order and another seven abandoned it. The Company has asserted that those accused who are still alive and are part of the congregation “are cut off from contact with minors and four of them are suspended from their ministerial work.”
The congregation has not wanted to reveal the names of the accused or other decisive data: the specific places and municipalities where the events took place (parishes, schools, seminaries …), it has only given data by autonomous communities. You have justified it because you do not want to cast suspicion on certain centers. To questions from this newspaper about whether the order is aware that not disclosing these data makes it lose one of the main means for new cases to come to light, the response has been: “We wanted to find a balance between avoiding a hunt of witches and send the message that the possible victims trust the will to seek the truth of the Company ”.
The victims see it insufficient
The national association of victims of child abuse Stolen Childhood has valued the step that the Society of Jesus has taken against the sexual abuse of minors, but has described it as insufficient. “We value the effort of the Jesuits in diving into the past, in reporting temporary data and statistics, but this should be seen as a light start to something else: recognition and repair. Assume de facto responsibilities and establish a channel of communication with their victims to purge guilt and proceed with sanctions and compensation ”, declared Juan Cuatrecasas, president of the association. On behalf of the entity, Cuatrecasas has stressed that it is necessary that these actions also have the participation of the victims and has extended its hand to collaborate with the Church “to forge a present and future of dignity, recognition and reparation without forgetting the past”.
If you know of any case of sexual abuse that has not seen the light, write us with your complaint to [email protected]