Reckoning and Reparations

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Spain approved a plan to compensate victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the Catholic Church, with officials saying that the church will finance the compensation, the Associated Press reported this week.

On Tuesday, Minister of Presidency and Justice Félix Bolaños said the initiative seeks to “settle a debt with those victims who for decades were forgotten by everyone and now our democracy aims to repair.”

The plan will be a central part of government policy and officials hope to implement it over the next four years, he added.

Even so, officials offered no details about the amount or when the compensation would take place.

Meanwhile, Spain’s Bishops Conference rejected the plan, claiming that it discriminated against victims outside of church circles.

The plan follows a report by the deeply Catholic country’s Ombudsman that said more than 400,000 people, including 200,000 minors, were sexually abused by individuals linked to the church since 1940, and that roughly half of those cases were committed by clergy.

The report also accused the institution of widespread negligence.

Spanish bishops, who for years ignored the issue, issued an apology following the report’s release, but countered that the number of victims was exaggerated. On March 2, church officials said it had counted 1,057 “registered cases” of sexual abuse, of which only 358 had been “proven” or were “plausible” while another 60 were under investigation, the Local Spain reported.

A number of countries have grappled with abuse claims directed at the Catholic Church, with some setting up compensation funds.

“I don’t think anyone would understand if the Spanish Church did not proceed as others did in countries like Ireland, France, Belgium or the United States,” said Bolaños, referring to nations where the Church had compensated victims, according to the Local Spain.

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