A group of victims of church abuse in Catalonia has dismissed the Ombudsman and called for a field investigation

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A group of victims of pedestrians in the church presented the Tolerance 0 forum in Barcelona this Thursday, marking the distance with the Ombudsman’s investigation. They believe that this body has neither the capacity nor the power to compel bishops to cooperate and declare that it will not participate in their initiative. For this reason, it proposes an alternative investigative path that forces the Church to reveal and open its archives. and urge the Parliament of Catalonia to accept this proposal and investigate at the regional level. With the exception of Vox, most deputies voted on 10 March in favor of entrusting the Ombudsman to create a commission of experts to investigate the sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by religious minors throughout Spain.

The Victims’ Union, which was most critical of the solution, participates in the Mans Petits, Tolerance 0 platform, as does the Vicki Bernadette Foundation for Victims of Abuse. There is also the author Alejandro Palomas, a victim of La Salle’s brother when he was eight years old at a school in the Premi de March, whose public testimony prompted President Sánchez to visit him; Esther Pujol, He was abused when he was 10, and Miguel Hurtado, the victim who exposed abuse at the Montserrat monastery, which has collected 87,000 signatures in favor of a public inquiry. change.org, The latter signs the document that certifies the Tolerance 0 Proposition: that legislative power grants a commission of experts extraordinary powers to compel the Church to cooperate. This is what they call the “Truth Commission”, which is similar to the model used by Australia. “We want to know not only how many rotten apples there are, but also whether the whole barrel is rotten,” Hurtado said at the press conference. “The victims are alone, no one wants to listen to them. It’s not about revenge, but justice”, said Manuel Barbero, president of Mans Petits, the father of a child abused at a Marist school.

Hurtado’s report was also the basis for the United We Can proposal when discussing how to investigate abuse in Congress: Begin with a Parliamentary Inquiry as an Initial Step to the Truth Commission. The PSOE situation imposed itself. Hurtado has updated the 38-page text detailing his performance in Catalonia. He defended, “before the refusal of Congress to apply this model”, that “it is the Generalitat, in the exercise of its powers, that makes the said commission to Catalonia with a reduced geographical scope of action”. The Commons has filed an inquiry motion into Parliament on clerical misconduct, but has not yet been voted on, reports Mark Rovira, The promoters of Tolerancia 0 have not contacted Catalan parties yet.

“It is not that we want to boycott the Lokpal initiative, it is that we feel it is not the right option. We have repeatedly sought technical legal report from PSOE on which its proposal is based and we have not received the same. Neither form nor matter assures us, so morally we cannot cooperate. That’s why we withdrew from the Lokpal”, Hurtado remarked. Palomas has influenced the same view: “I think Pedro Sánchez didn’t lie to me in the meeting we organized, but that’s not enough. The defender, without coercive powers, is not enough. We need documents, a project, a foundation, a budget, a million things that don’t exist. He’s a cute guy, but it’s like when you go to a store, they serve you very well, but you don’t find what you like. Hurtado specified that he only believes that it is possible for him to participate in the commission of the Lokpal if there is a change in the approach conferring extraordinary powers to this body.

Hurtado has also pointed to the teaching career of the Ombudsman himself, ngel Gabilondo, as not relying on him to lead the investigation: “There is a conflict of interest, you cannot be both the judge and the party. ngel Gabilondo was a teacher in the 70s in centers where sexual abuse took place [en centros de los Hermanos del Sagrado Corazón, uno en Madrid y otro en Vitoria], Former students say that it was an open secret and they did not know anything. Two chairmen of the commission in England resigned before finding the right one. Asked about it by EL PAÍS in February, Gabilondo explained: “I was not aware of any cases of sexual abuse in the school where I was teaching. If I had known them, I would have reported them. I am and have always been in favor of investigating the abuse of minors and that the responsibilities be addressed.

Doubts about the competence and power of the Ombudsman do not come only from this group of victims or the United We Can. The Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) itself has cast doubt on this. “The Church is not a public power. So it is important to see what the approach is [de la investigación]Because if not, it will certainly go beyond the provision of the law of the Ombudsman, which the Ombudsman can do”, said EEC Secretary-General Luis Argüello two weeks ago.

Beyond the general lines, details of how the defender’s check will work are not known at the moment. Gabilondo speculated on March 18 that he would like to compose a commission of experts for Easter and what profiles (prosecutors, criminals, psychologists, victims and church representatives…) Plus too. He defended the ability of the institution he had directed to investigate abuse: “We will see what kind of authority is needed for someone to testify and I think an interesting authority is the moral authority.”

The union of victims that has clearly come out in favor of the Ombudsman’s investigation is Stolen Childhood, a national organization founded by socialist deputy Juan Cuatrecas. Most of the victims of clerical pedophilia are not part of these associations, which perform a titanic task with few resources. The other main group is the Association of Victims of Abuse in Navarra’s religious centers. He was critical of the congressional agreement with the same skepticism as Mans Petits, but accepted the solution and said he would participate in the initiative.

A little more than a month ago, the EEC announced a commission for the law firm to audit abuses, and two weeks ago they provided an audit of the complaints they received for the first time, for victims enabled by diocese and religious orders. was collected through the offices. By order of the Pope. He spoke of 506 complaints, without specifying the number of those affected or abused. According to data from this newspaper, Spain has at least 614 cases and 1,264 victims. According to experts, these figures are far from the reality of the problem. In a country like France (with 67 million inhabitants, 20 more than Spain), the Commission of Inquiry calculated that there were at least 216,000 victims since the middle of the last century.

theft report

The text prepared by Hunt of Montserrat begins by pointing out that the Ombudsman is “not the most appropriate body to perform this task, as its legal position does not give it the coercive power of inquiry to successfully carry out this function.” Is.” “This is what happened in 2019,” he adds, “With a similar investigation carried out in Catalonia by the Cindic de Greggs. (equivalent to Lokpal at the regional level)”. The findings of these investigations condemned the lack of cooperation of the Church and the impossibility of carrying out the task assigned to it. “They can’t ask us to participate in another disappointment like this,” Hurtado said.

The commission proposed by the platform will investigate the sexual abuse of minors “in any institution directly dependent on, managed and supervised by the Catalan Catholic Church, carried out in Catalan Catholic institutions from 1945 to 2021.” Inspired by other international experiences, the following objectives have been set: “Objectively measure the magnitude, basic characteristics and severity of sexual abuse; Qualitative and quantitative study of the impact of clerical descent on victims and their families; analysis of disclosure patterns by victims; qualitative study of modus operandi of attackers and causes and context, and to audit institutional responses to disclosure and discovery of cases”.

Hurtado proposes that victims’ testimony be collected in private sessions, that others be public and that church archives be accessible without restriction. “If an international comparison is made, there are two ways to access these archives. Voluntary (German model) and compulsory (American model)”, says the report.

“In order to get results comparable to the best international standard (Australia) in our country, it will be necessary to make informal an independent legal body, of a temporary nature, whose sole mission is to carry out this investigation and which has been endowed with the same or even more in-depth investigative powers available to the Spanish and Catalan parliaments”, it continues, that Pointing out there is a need to reform the Penal Code to confer punitive inquiry powers to the Commission. It also highlights the need for a budget for this commission: “For example, German received a budget of 1.2 million euros in 2017 which increased to 2.6 million in 2018. The Australian had a total budget during its five-year period of 235 million euros. The cost to the British in the fiscal year 2015 to 2016 was 17.69 million euros. Hurtado proposes that it is the church that pays for this investigation.

Valedora do Pobo refuses to investigate abuse

Valedora do Pobo, the counterpart of the Ombudsman in Galicia, has declared herself incompetent to investigate pedestrians in the church. This is done in response to a request by a group of 12 Galician victims to expose the abuses that many of them suffered at the Marist school in Vigo. They confirm their request with an article that EL PAÍS published on the subject in June 2021, which contains some of this evidence.

The group of victims requested Valedora on 15 February and received a response from María Dolores Fernández, the person in charge of the organization, on 9 March. In his letter he pointed out that the body he directs has the ability to oversee the activity of Galician public officials. “In the case that moves us, there is no act or resolution of the administration of the autonomous community, its agents or the local administration,” says Fernandez. However, he said it was “important” to wait for the end of the debate in Congress to determine which body is investigating these incidents. Consulted by this newspaper, a spokesman for Valedora confirmed that, following a parliament resolution, the “only competent person” to investigate prescribed abuses is the ombudsman “for the entire Spanish state”.

If you know of any case of sexual abuse that hasn’t had daylight, write to us here with your complaint abuses@elpais.es

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