In a first for Spain, Jesuits admit to decades of sex abuse

FILE - In this file photo dated Friday, June 22, 2018, protesters demonstrate while blocking the street outside the Justice Ministry in Madrid, Spain.  The first comprehensive internal inquiry on sex abuse allegations by a religious order in Spain has identified 81 children and 37 adult victims by 96 Jesuits since the late 1920s, in a report released Friday Jan. 22, 2021, but associations of victims say it falls short of identifying perpetrators or those who covered up the abuses. (AP Photo/Paul White, FILE)
FILE - In this file photo dated Friday, June 22, 2018, protesters demonstrate while blocking the street outside the Justice Ministry in Madrid, Spain. The first comprehensive internal inquiry on sex abuse allegations by a religious order in Spain has identified 81 children and 37 adult victims by 96 Jesuits since the late 1920s, in a report released Friday Jan. 22, 2021, but associations of victims say it falls short of identifying perpetrators or those who covered up the abuses. (AP Photo/Paul White, FILE) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

MADRID – The first comprehensive internal inquiry on sex abuse allegations by a religious order in Spain has identified 81 children and 37 adult victims of 96 Jesuits since the late 1920s, a much higher number than the cases that had so far been publicly known.

Associations of victims are welcoming the disclosure, but they see it falling short since the names of perpetrators or those who covered up the abuses weren't disclosed. They also want the Jesuits' inquiry to lead to proper criminal cases against the few abusers that are still alive and a detailed plan to compensate their victims.

“It's a timid measure that goes in the right direction, but it falls too short,” Miguel Hurtado, a spokesman with the Stolen Childhood Association, told The Associated Press on Friday.

Jesuits is how members of the Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic religious order formed in 1540 by Ignatius Loyola, are commonly known. According to its website, the order runs 68 schools with some 75,000 students in Spain as well as half a dozen universities and high education centers.

The Society of Jesus in Spain said in its report published Thursday that the internal probe confirmed that 96 members had been accused of sex abuses since 1927, the year of the first recorded case. For 65 of the Jesuits, the accusations involved underage victims. The report nevertheless highlighted that the accused Jesuits make up just over 1% of the 8,782 members admitted in the order during the past 93 years.

The disclosure by the Spanish Jesuits comes as Pope Francis, the church’s first Jesuit pope, has tried to sensitize the church around the globe to the problem of clergy abuse and passed laws to hold the hierarchy accountable for covering it up.

As with other religious groups that specialize in education, the report shows that Jesuit-run schools became ripe hunting grounds for predator priests given that they provided a steady supply of victims. Most of the abuse found had taken place in or was related to schools, the Spanish Jesuits said.

Only 17 of the perpetrators involving minors are alive and the 13 of them that remain linked to the Jesuits have been either punished or are awaiting results of criminal or internal investigations, and all have been relocated to positions away from children, the order said in its report.