World News

Spanish bishops create commission to combat child sex abuse

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s bishops have set up a commission on child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, in preparation for meeting next year called by Pope Francis to cope with a spreading sexual abuse crisis.

Facing scandals in the United States, Chile, Australia and Germany, among others, Francis has summoned the heads of the national Catholic bishops’ conference to a meeting in the Vatican in February.

The Spanish group, made up of church lawyers, will start work this week to prepare material for the meeting, the national bishops’ conference said in a statement on Tuesday.

Next on the group’s agenda will be updating the protocol on how cases of child sexual abuse are treated and writing new rules to replace the current code, which was established in 2010.

The current rules help bishops, priests, and other religious officials and institutions to handle cases of sexual abuse or aggression toward minors, or possession of child pornography, the statement said.

A judicial vicar from the southern Spanish diocese of Cartagena said in an interview with the newspaper El Pais on Monday that the church had hushed up abuse cases around the world in the twentieth century, including in Spain.

Gil Jose Saez Martinez said Spanish dioceses do not keep documents showing that priests were moved between parishes because of reports or evidence of sexual abuse.

Ten Spanish priests were charged with child sexual abuse in 2015, in a case brought after Pope Francis telephoned the victim to offer the Church’s apology.

Reporting by Isla Binnie, editing by Larry King