Jesuits in Spain Apologize for Abuse, but Words are Empty without Action
The Jesuits in Spain have apologized for the abuse perpetrated on children and adults by priests from their order and released limited information about those cases, which span nearly a century. The release of this information is a good first step. However, if the Jesuits want their apology to truly mean something they must follow up with much more action.
According to the report, at least 96 priests from the Jesuit order abused at least 81 children and 21 adults in Spain since 1927. To us, these numbers seem unbelievably low. We strongly suspect that there are far more hidden victims. We are also extremely disappointed that the order has chosen not to disclose the names of those 96 perpetrators to the public. Such a move would not only help survivors to heal but also spur more victims to come forward.
For context, the abuse rate acknowledged by the US Catholic Church is over 6% and our statistics estimate nearly 1 in 10 US priests have abused children since 1950. The Jesuits in the United States report the highest number of abusers among religious orders (so far), acknowledging that over 300 US Jesuits abused thousands of boys and girls, a current proportion of one abuser to every seven Jesuits. Applying that same proportion to Spain, which apparently studied 8,889 Spanish Jesuits files, there likely are 1,250 abusers among its ranks.
Then there are the victim counts. We know that in the United States, secular investigations bring out more accurate victim assessments. From the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, the average victim count per accused priest is nine, and we also know at least one third of victims never report, so the likely count per abuser is above twelve. Applying those to the even paltry 1% the Spanish Jesuits claim results in nearly 1,000 victims. Applying that number more accurately to the likely abuser count of 1,250 yields over 15,000 Spanish victims of Jesuit priests.
These discrepancies demonstrate why it is important that secular authorities are the ones who investigate crimes committed by the Catholic Church, not Church officials themselves. It is difficult to trust the numbers put out by the very people who have a vested interest in protecting themselves and the reputation of their institution. Only through unbiased probes without any attachment to the institution can the full truth be revealed. We hope that government officials in Spain will follow in the footsteps of countries like the UK, Australia and Canada and open a commission into crimes committed against children and adults by religious institutions.
There are critical questions that remain to be answered and we hope that a commission would focus on finding the answers to the following:
- For how long have Jesuit officials known about the allegations against a perpetrator and potentially endangered others by keeping the name of that abuser hidden?
- Which Jesuit officials, living or dead, chose to protect a perpetrator instead of the communities in which he worked?
This step by the Jesuits in Spain is but one towards complete transparency. We firmly believe that the immediate next steps must be taken by the Spanish government.
CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)