Spain’s Catholic Church to compensate sexual abuse victims

Spain’s Catholic Church said on Friday it would compensate victims of sexual abuse even in cases that have not been concluded because the offending priest has died, representing a shift from its previous position.

In cases where there is no sentence, “we will also pay if the perpetrator is deceased or if there is a civil statute of limitations,” Francisco Garcia Magan, secretary general of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, told a press conference.

“It will have to be examined on a case-by-case basis. And if that moral conclusion is reached, then there will be that moral reparation,” Garcia Magan added after announcing that Spanish bishops had unanimously approved an “integral plan” to compensate victims.

The Church had until now refused to compensate victims in cases where the abuser had died, a frequent occurrence.

A billboard denounces children sexual abuse by members of the Portuguese Catholic church during the XXXVII World Youth Day celebrations in Lisbon, Portugal, August 2, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/Catarina Demony)

It is grappling with a scandal following a landmark media investigation in 2021 that unearthed widespread abuse by priests in Spain. It follows other sexual abuse scandals involving the Catholic Church in a number of countries including the United States, Ireland and France.

The extent of sexual abuse in the Church

A survey published last month that formed part of a report by Spain’s human rights ombudsman found that 0.6% of 8,000 respondents said they had been abused, rising to 1.1% when including lay people such as teachers at Catholic schools.

The ombudsman’s report also criticized the Church for not cooperating fully with the investigation and for seeking to “minimize the phenomenon.”

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