F Rosa Rubicondior: Catholic Sex Abuse News - Spanish Catholic Priests Sexually Abused Over 200,000 Children

Friday 27 October 2023

Catholic Sex Abuse News - Spanish Catholic Priests Sexually Abused Over 200,000 Children

Cardinal Isidro Gomá y Tomás, Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain, when the Catholic Church was at the height of its power in Spain.
Spanish clergy sexually abused more than 200,000 children, inquiry estimates | Spain | The Guardian

The routine sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests is back in the news after an independent commission, led by Spain's national Ombudsman, former education minister, Ángel Gabilondo, has discovered that more than 200,000 minors have been sexually abused by Catholic priests since 1940.

This figure is an estimate based on extrapolating the figure of 0.8% of 8,000 Spanish adults in a survey who reported being sexually abused by Catholic priests before the age of 18 - a figure which rose to 1.13% (360,000 of Spain's 32 million adult population) if lay members of the church were included. Lay members of the church perform some of the duties of priests but are not ordained or under holy orders. As such, they come under the authority and control of senior church figured, usually the bishops, archbishops and cardinals in charge of diocese.

For most of the period, the Spanish Catholic Church was a privileged and protected institution that considered itself largely above the law - a position that derived from its active support and cooperation with General Frano's Fascist regime. During this period, the Catholic Church was given control of most of the influential and welfare aspects of Spanish life, including education, health and institutions such as orphanages, mother and baby homes and homes for single mothers, many of whom were themselves victims of sexual abuse.
What was the role of the Catholic Church in Franco's Spain? The Catholic Church played a significant and complex role in General Francisco Franco's Spain, which lasted from the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939 until his death in 1975.

The relationship between the Catholic Church and the Franco regime can be summarized as follows:
  1. Close Alliance: Franco's regime and the Catholic Church were closely allied throughout his rule. Franco considered the Catholic Church to be one of the pillars of his authoritarian regime, along with the military and the Falange (a far-right political party). This alliance was built on shared conservative values and a common opposition to leftist and liberal ideologies.
  2. Church and State Collaboration: The regime and the Church worked together in various ways. The 1939 Nationalist victory in the Spanish Civil War was often portrayed as a crusade to protect Spain's Catholic identity from the secular and anti-clerical forces of the Republican side. Franco's government granted the Church significant privileges and control over various aspects of Spanish society. The Church played a prominent role in education, censorship, and social welfare.
  3. Censorship and Control: The Catholic Church was instrumental in enforcing censorship and maintaining ideological control in Franco's Spain. The regime relied on the Church to suppress dissent and maintain a strict conservative and nationalist agenda. Censorship of literature, films, and other forms of media was often done in accordance with Catholic moral standards.
  4. Education: The Church had a dominant role in the Spanish educational system. Religious education was mandatory in schools, and the Church influenced the curriculum and the appointment of teachers. This allowed the Church to shape the values and beliefs of future generations of Spaniards.
  5. Social Welfare: The Church was also involved in social welfare activities, providing assistance to the poor and needy. This helped the Church maintain a positive image among the Spanish population.
  6. Opposition to Dissent: The Church supported the regime's suppression of political opposition, including left-wing groups and labor unions. It did not openly challenge Franco's authoritarian rule and often cooperated with government efforts to suppress dissent.
  7. Changes After Vatican II: In the 1960s, the Catholic Church underwent a period of reform and modernization, largely driven by the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II). This led to some tensions between the Church and the Franco regime. Some elements within the Church began advocating for a more open and progressive approach, while the regime remained conservative and authoritarian.
Overall, the Catholic Church played a significant role in shaping the cultural and political landscape of Franco's Spain. Its support and collaboration with the regime contributed to the longevity of Franco's rule, but the relationship between the Church and the state evolved over time, especially as the Church itself underwent changes during the Vatican II era.

What abuses of power resulted from this relationship between church and state in Spain?

The close relationship between the Catholic Church and the Franco regime in Spain led to various abuses of power and violations of human rights during Franco's rule. Some of the notable abuses and consequences of this relationship include:
  1. Repression of Dissent: The Church played a role in the suppression of political dissent. It supported the Franco regime's efforts to stifle opposition, leading to the persecution and imprisonment of political opponents, including left-wing activists, intellectuals, and labor union leaders.
  2. Censorship and Suppression of Freedom of Speech: The Church collaborated with the regime in imposing strict censorship on books, films, and other forms of media. This censorship limited intellectual and artistic freedom and suppressed critical voices.
  3. Suppression of Regional and Cultural Diversity: The Franco regime, with the support of the Church, sought to centralize power and suppress regional and cultural diversity. The use of the Spanish language was enforced, and regional languages and cultures were often repressed.
  4. Restrictions on Religious Freedom: While the Catholic Church enjoyed a privileged position in Franco's Spain, there were restrictions on the religious freedom of non-Catholic groups. Other religious denominations and faiths faced limitations and discrimination.
  5. Persecution of Homosexuals: Homosexuality was criminalized during Franco's regime, and individuals were persecuted for their sexual orientation. The Catholic Church's teachings and moral values contributed to a repressive environment for LGBTQ+ individuals.
  6. Gender Inequality: The close association with the Catholic Church also reinforced traditional gender roles and contributed to gender inequality. Women had limited access to education, employment opportunities, and birth control.
  7. Limited Separation of Church and State: The intertwining of the Catholic Church and the state led to a lack of separation of church and state. This meant that religious dogma often influenced government policies and decisions, even when it came to matters unrelated to religion.
  8. Education Control: The Church's dominant role in education allowed it to shape the curriculum and values taught in schools. This led to a conservative and often narrow-minded approach to education.
It is important to note that not all members of the Catholic Church in Spain supported or participated in these abuses. There were internal debates and differences of opinion within the Church, with some individuals and groups advocating for a more progressive and open approach. However, the overall institutional alignment between the Church and the Franco regime contributed to the abuses of power during this period. After Franco's death in 1975 and the subsequent transition to democracy, Spain gradually moved away from the close Church-state relationship, embracing principles of secularism, religious freedom, and human rights.
During the Franco era, the Catholic Church in Spain, as it did in neighbouring Fascist Portugal, epitomized the fundamental law of religion, that all religions support freedom of conscience until they acquire the power to abolish it.

Spain's national ombudsman, Ángel Gabilondo, addresses a press conference in Madrid.
Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images
It was during this era that Catholic priests and nuns went in for the sale of stolen babies to childless Catholic couples, often telling the baby's mother than that her baby had died and refusing her access to the body.

And it was during this time that the majority of child abuses occurred when children were too afraid to complain about a Catholic priest for fear of the repercussions from speaking out against a 'Man of God', who was also a powerful figure in local and maybe national politics and a friend of the brutal Falange, through whom the Fascist dictator, Franco, suppressed any hint of dissent or anything but unswerving loyalty to his regime and the Catholic Church on whom he relied.

It is only now that the Catholic Church has lost much of its political power and child abuse scandals have rocked the Catholic Church in most countries where the Catholic Church has a significant presence, that Spanish victims are finding the courage to speak out.

As Ángel Gabilondo said when presenting his report:

Unfortunately, for many years there has been a certain desire to deny abuses or a desire to conceal or protect the abusers.

Ángel Gabilondo
Spain's national ombudsman
The Spanish Catholic Church, which had for many years refused to carry out its own investigation into the growing number of complaints, reluctantly agreed to cooperate with the enquiry and handed over documents collected by diocese and admitted last June that it had found evidence of 927 cases of child abuse through a complaints procedure launched in 2020 - a figure which is believed to massively underestimate the real scale of the problem, as the top-selling daily newspaper El País has uncovered 2,206 victims and 1,036 alleged abusers dating back to 1927, with an investigation that begun in 2018.

The report also found that, in the tried and tested way of covering up abuse while allowing abusers to continue abusing, accused priests were routinely moved to other parishes or sent abroad, but no action was taken to restrict their activities or reduce their power and influence in the church or bar them from working unsupervised with children.

So, just as in Ireland, Germany, France and Ireland, paedophiles saw the Catholic priesthood as an easy way to get trusted access to their victims, in an organization that was acting more like a paedophile ring in which religion could be used as an excuse and the church facillitated their access to victims.
Who were the senior Catholic clerics in Spain during this period? During General Francisco Franco's rule in Spain (1939-1975), there were several senior Catholic clerics who held influential positions within the Spanish Catholic Church. Some of the notable figures include:
  1. Cardinal Isidro Gomá y Tomás: He was the Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain. Gomá was a prominent figure in the Spanish Catholic Church and played a key role in the Church's support for Franco's regime. He was known for his conservative and authoritarian stance.
  2. Cardinal Enrique Pla y Deniel: Pla y Deniel served as the Archbishop of Toledo after Gomá's death in 1940. He, too, was closely associated with the Franco regime and supported its policies.
  3. Cardinal Vicente Enrique y Tarancón: While he did not hold senior positions within the Church hierarchy during Franco's rule, Tarancón became a significant figure after the dictator's death. He played a central role in the Church's transition toward a more moderate and progressive stance during the Spanish transition to democracy in the late 1970s.
  4. Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela: He became a prominent figure in the Spanish Church in more recent decades but was not active during the Franco era. Rouco Varela was Archbishop of Madrid and played a role in the Church's engagement with contemporary social and political issues.
It's important to note that the Spanish Catholic Church underwent significant changes after the death of Franco and during the transition to democracy, including a shift toward a more moderate and open stance. This transition was led by figures like Cardinal Tarancón and later Church leaders, in response to changing social and political dynamics in Spain. During Franco's rule, the Church was generally aligned with the regime and was less diverse in its leadership compared to the post-Franco period.
This news simply reinforces the fact that, for some people, religion provides them with excuses and the cover they need for their antisocial behaviour. It shows that an institution which is as obsessed with sex as the Catholic Church, which has religion as its raison d'être and which has no accountability to the people it purports to serve, will become corrupt and see itself as their master, not their servant. It will even come to view their children as sub-human playthings to be used for entertainment and gratification of deviant fantasies.

So far, Pope Francis has made no comment on the report.

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