EL PAÍS launched an investigation into pedophilia in the Spanish Church in 2018 and has an updated database with all known cases. If you know of any case that has not seen the light of day, you can write to us at: [email protected]. If it is a case in Latin America, the address is: [email protected].
The Spanish bishops refuse to accept the results of the report by the Ombudsman, Ángel Gabilondo, on pedophilia in the Church, released on October 27, and which in a survey estimated that 1.13% of the population has suffered abuse. in an ecclesiastical environment. It is a percentage equivalent to some 440,000 people, according to calculations by EL PAÍS and other media, a figure that is not in the report, since the Ombudsman preferred not to make extrapolations. Cardinal Juan José Omella, president of the Episcopal Conference (CEE), has not only once again accused journalists of “defamation” for a data that he considers “exorbitant”, but has also attacked the survey itself: “We express our intense disappointment for the aforementioned extrapolation and for the doubtful reliability of the results presented from said survey. (…) We have reviewed the information on the aforementioned survey provided by the Ombudsman in his report and, frankly, it is impossible for us to trust the veracity and reliability of such results,” he stated this Monday in his opening speech at the plenary assembly of the institution.
With these arguments, Omella called for closing ranks and rejecting the magnitude of the scandal: “Once again, we reiterate that our fight against all kinds of abuses must continue without ceasing. But, at the same time, we affirm that our esteem and consideration for the priests and religious of our Church remain intact. We bishops want to offer our support to all of them. And we take advantage of this occasion to appeal to the Catholic faithful, encouraging them to show their appreciation and trust. Let us be fair and not judge hastily.” Previously he had asked for forgiveness from the victims and assured that “in no way” do the bishops intend to “seek excuses or justifications to avoid any responsibility.”
But Omella’s speech has gone further by questioning, in general, the credibility of any demographic study and sociological science: “Surveys are not reliable because there is no way to confirm the veracity of the answer.” The survey, based on more than 8,000 telephone interviews, a sample considered completely solid by all experts, is not reliable for the CEE, “because a survey expresses opinions, but does not determine objective facts external to it.”
The speech of the president of the bishops, delivered to the press, is very severe with the work of GAD3, the company that carried out the survey. He criticizes “the high difference” between the telephone calls made, 113,126, with “those who agreed to answer the questionnaire and the telephone interviews finally carried out, 4,802.” “The disproportion is enormous and shows that an unknown part of those who agreed to be interviewed had an interest in it,” concludes Omella. “Unfortunately, GAD 3 did not introduce ideological bias control questions. Other necessary control questions were the memory and intention to vote and its comparison with the total, and the means of communication through which the information was accessed. By lacking these elements, there is no guarantee about the representativeness of the sample and it lacks evaluable significance.” This newspaper has asked Narcís Michavila, president of GAD3, for an assessment of the CEE’s criticism, but has not received a response.
Omella considers that a survey only expresses opinions and does not determine objective facts because it falls into several errors. “Due to sampling error: the quality of the projection depends on the representativeness of the sample. If the sample is not representative, the results may not accurately reflect the reality of the general population. Due to biases in the sample: if there are any in the data collection, the results may not accurately reflect reality. Due to mistrust and imprecision of the results: projecting exact figures of the general population from a sample can generate significant inaccuracies.” He has also alluded to the “complexity of the factors involved,” so in his opinion “projecting a crime rate based on a percentage of a specific sample without considering these factors can lead to incorrect and stigmatizing conclusions.”
In any case, despite these objections, in Omella’s 33-page speech, which addresses other current issues, there are numerous references to other statistical studies based on surveys on the employment situation in Spain, poverty, immigration, suicide rates among young people or the consumption of pornography by minors.
The president of the bishops made this amendment to the entire survey after once again attacking the press, which he has already accused of lying: “We feel obliged to express the pain and discomfort that we have suffered in the face of public defamation caused by an intentional and erroneous extrapolation.” Omella stated that it is “an extrapolation that the Ombudsman repeatedly stated could not be done,” when in fact Gabilondo himself invited journalists to do so at the press conference. He also stated that “many technicians” have confirmed that survey data should not be extrapolated. “You cannot extrapolate a figure of 0.6% when the margin of error of the survey is 1.1%,” he points out. “What is the purpose behind this nonsense? It is especially concerning to us that this has created a damaging image of our overall mission. It is unfair that the evil caused by a minority is attributed to them.”
Professionals from the demographic sector consulted by this newspaper admit that studies rarely translate their percentages into absolute numbers, but that it is assumed that it is common practice in the media and if it is being questioned in this case it is because it is a controversial issue. They emphasize that, beyond a specific figure, it is clear that the Ombudsman’s survey is revealing “hundreds of thousands of cases.”
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