Spain

The investigation of abuses in the Spanish Church will have "all the necessary scope".

The law firm Cremades-Calvo Sotelo has been chosen by the Spanish Episcopal Conference to carry out an independent legal audit on cases of sexual abuse of minors committed by members of the Church in Spain.

Maria José Atienza-February 22, 2022-Reading time: 4 minutes
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The investigation will have "all the necessary scope to clarify the cases that occurred in the past and to incorporate the highest levels of responsibility to prevent the repetition of these cases in the future", this was the statement of Mons. Juan José Omella, president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference in a large press conference in which the audit that the law firm Cremades-Calvo Sotelo has initiated in order to know, clarify and repair the victims of sexual abuse in the Church was presented.

The EEC, emphasized its president, "wants to assume its responsibility to the victims, to the authorities and to society by establishing a new vehicle to help clarify the events of the past and help prevent them from happening again".

"It is a service to society, especially to the victims and to clarify some episodes that must be overcome", added Javier Cremades, who assumes this task aware of the "delicacy and exceptionality of the matter". In fact, Cremades himself wanted to point out that this concept of service to society has led to the decision not to charge the Episcopal Conference for this audit, except for third party expenses.

Complement government research, not supplant it.

Both the president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference and Javier Cremades have insisted that this investigation opens a new stage in the management of child abuse by the Spanish Church.

"Omella pointed out that "the objective of this audit is the reparation of the victims by establishing new channels of collaboration and assistance in addition to those that already exist and, secondly, to create a bridge that facilitates the work of the authorities by establishing a close and efficient channel of collaboration, regardless of the means with which the authorities are equipped for their investigations".

In the same line Cremades has expressed himself by emphasizing that this investigation commissioned by the Spanish bishops does not come to "supplant the authorities but to complement them and help them to fulfill their function". In fact, Javier Cremades himself has pointed out that, upon receiving this assignment from the EEC, he himself informed the parliamentary Ángel Gabilondo, Ombudsman and one of the members to be included in the commission that the Spanish government wants to form to investigate these cases of abuse but only in the Catholic Church.  

A "Spanish" methodology with German influence

For the firm, with more than 25 years of professional experience, this investigation into the abuse of minors in the Spanish Church is "the most complex matter we have faced to date", according to Javier Cremades, partner of the firm.

For the execution of this audit, "the work methods carried out in countries such as France, Germany, Ireland and Australia have been studied". The work carried out in the diocese of Munich by the Munich law firm Westpfahl, Spilker, Wastl offers, in Cremades' opinion, "very interesting references", so that two members of this firm, Ulrich Wastl and Martin Pusch, will be part of this investigation contributing, in monthly meetings, their methodology and points of view.

However, Cremades - Calvo Sotelo will create its own "Spanish model" that incorporates the useful points of those already studied and at the same time corrects the methodological deficiencies that some of these studies may have had.

The audit will also include the work of the offices of the Spanish dioceses that, for more than a year, have been working with and accompanying victims of abuse throughout the country. This work will also be analyzed and improved as required. CONFER will also collaborate in this audit.

In principle, 18 people will take on this audit in a team that is expected to grow and for which lawyers of the stature of Encarnación Roca, former vice-president of the Constitutional Court and member of the Supreme Court, Rafael Fernández Montalvo, emeritus judge of the Supreme Court, Juan Saavedra, former president of Chamber II of the Supreme Court, Vicente Conde Martín de Hijas, also a former judge of the Supreme Court, and Santiago Calvo Sotelo, partner of the firm, among others, are already working for the firm.

Over time, and taking into account the process and needs of the victims and victims' associations, as pointed out by Javier Cremades, the team could be expanded to include people from the fields of "culture, society, psychiatry or psychology".

"We need everyone's input."

The planned duration of the audit, which began its work a few days ago, is set at one year. A reasonable time, according to the jurist "to have a true picture of what happened".

The "necessary amplitude" requested by the Episcopal Conference points to the fact that there will be no time limit for the cases to be investigated, despite their civil statute of limitations.

In this line, Cremades has appealed to society "we need information from everyone", he stressed, "first of all from those affected, the victims, their associations, from the media that have done work in this regard and have lists. Of course, from the offices and the Public Prosecutor's Office, the Ombudsman and the authorities".

The firm has created a specific e-mail address for this matter. denunciaabusos@cremadescavosotelo.com in order to receive complaints from individuals and associations and to initiate contact with them.

The new stage in the management of abuse in the Spanish Church has begun with this investigation which, as the president of the Episcopal Conference also wanted to point out, will be carried out in parallel to what the Church is already doing in this field and with which, in the words of Bishop Omella, "we want to clarify the facts, to communicate to society what is being done and what we must improve".

Coordination and advisory service for diocesan offices

Likewise, coinciding with the presentation of this research, the new Coordination and Advice Service for Diocesan Offices created by the Spanish Episcopal Conference has been made public. This new service was created with the aim of serving as a support and reference to these offices in their work and will be formed by the psychiatrist Montserrat Lafuente, who already works in the Office of the diocese of Vic; Mª José Diez, responsible for the Office of Astorga; the priest Jesús Rodríguez, member of the Tribunal of the Rota; and Jesús Miguel Zamora, secretary general of CONFER.

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