Catholic Church commissions external audit on sexual abuses

Law firm Cremades & Calvo Sotelo will receive victim's complaints

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Cardinal Joan Josep Omella during his homily at the Corpus Christi Mass in June

BarcelonaThe Catholic Church will order an "independent audit" to analyse complaints about sexual abuse, the Spanish Episcopal Conference has announced. Law firm Cremades & Calvo Sotelo has been commissioned to carry out the audit, whose aim is to open an "independent channel" to receive complaints and review legal procedures "aimed at punishing criminal practices". In addition, according to the Episcopal Conference's statement , collaboration is offered to the authorities to help clarify the claims and to establish a prevention system "that satisfies social demands in this respect".

This announcement comes at a time when society is asking the Church for transparency and firmness in dealing with the problem of sexual abuse. Author Alejandro Palomas, who was abused by a priest when he was 8 years old at La Salle school in Premià de Mar, has been one of the triggers of the growing social pressure in the past weeks demanding a change within the Catholic Church. Cardinal Joan Josep Omella, president of the Episcopal Conference, will present the implementation of the audit this Tuesday. He will be accompanied by the president of the firm in charge of carrying out the project, Javier Cremades.

In fact, last Thursday, the main associations of victims of sexual abuse made public a manifesto to demand that the Catholic Church –both its ecclesiastical leadership and its religious orders– collaborate "in the processes of investigation" that has been opened to address the problem of sexual abuse within the institution. The signatories consider that Spain is experiencing "an anomaly at European level" in the way in which this issue is being addressed and it is necessary to "study and collect the best of each international experience" to apply it in the Spanish state. The Vicki Bernadet Foundation, the writer Alejandro Palomas or the association Mans Petites, chaired by Manuel Barbero –the father who denounced the Maristes case–, were some of the signatories who demanded the creation of two commissions, a parliamentary one to listen to "experts, public officials, representatives of the public and private sector, and representatives of the Spanish state, experts, public officials, representatives of the Church and victims" to be able to "design" a road map, but at the same time a second independent commission coordinated by the Ombudsman to be able the victims to get recognition and carry out "processes of reparation for the pain caused". Sources in the Spanish government, precisely, point out that what the Catholic Church has to do is to "collaborate with the Ombudsman's commission" and contribute with the results of the audit.

In Catalonia, according to data from the Public Prosecutor's Office, fourteen courts are investigating claims of sexual abuse in religious institutions.