An internal investigation by the Spanish Catholic Church into alleged child sexual abuse by members of the clergy is "partial" and "of little use," the office of Spain's national prosecutor wrote in a letter to the country's ombudsman that was made available to Reuters.
The Spanish Catholic Church in January launched diocesan-level inquiries after Spanish newspaper El Pais reported in December more than 1,200 cases of alleged abuse between 1943 and 2018.
The revelations came years after sexual abuse scandals had rocked the Church in countries such as the United States, Ireland and France.
In February, the Church said a private law firm, Cremades & Calvo-Sotelo, would oversee and audit its investigations, a move labelled as a "smokescreen" by a victim's association.
The Spanish Bishops' Conference declined to comment on the prosecutor's letter when contacted by Reuters.
Spanish prosecutors in February said they were looking into 68 cases of alleged sexual abuse of minors by Catholic church staff in 17 regions. The country's ombudsman was also tasked with carrying out an investigation by Spanish lawmakers in March.
"Audits or partial investigations entrusted by the Church to private law firms, where victims lack a safe space in which to recount their experiences and are asked to fill in a form that refers to them as 'affected,' should be discarded and considered of little use," said the letter from the prosecutor's office to the ombudsman, first reported by El Pais.
A spokesperson for Cremades & Calvo-Sotelo told Reuters that the firm thought it was "very reasonable" for the prosecutor to be involved in the investigation.
"We believe that all efforts are useful, given that this is a big and complex problem, and no person or institution can handle it alone if they want to contribute to a solution," the spokesperson said.
The Spanish prosecutor's office said that the commissions in charge of investigating the child abuse cases should be independent and it was essential that national prosecutors be a part of the investigation.
It also called for other initiatives to help bring cases to light and "non-judicial mechanisms" for listening to victims and helping them heal.
The Spanish Catholic Church said early in 2022 it was deeply saddened by the abuses and would work with the authorities and bring transparency, help and reparation to victims.
The head of the law firm, Javier Cremades, said in February that the Church had to fully investigate the alleged abuses, and that his firm was providing a service both to victims and society.