A PARISH priest has been jailed for 20 years for sexually abusing young girls in his care during a six month period back in 2014, according to newly released court documents.

The priest, practicing in the city of Cordoba, was accused of sexually groping six individuals between the ages of eight and 12 who were visiting during religious camps during the school summer holidays.

An investigation began when one of the victims, who has not been named for her protection, spoke of the abuse in front of a Policia Local officer five years after the events.

The priest, nonpracticing at the time, was scheduled to appear at the 2019 Cordoba fair, causing one of the girls due to attend to suffer an anxiety attack.

She began drinking heavily to try and cope but became so drunk she had to be escorted by Polica Local officers. When they asked her what had caused her to binge, she told them about the priest and the abuse she had suffered.

She was encouraged to report the incident to Policia Nacional, which then led to five other girls coming forward.

The priest is accused of getting the girls to sit on his lap, using the lure of sweets, and maintaining an inappropriate level of contact during private meetings.

During the trial, the priest explained that he ‘liked to be hugged’ and that ‘girls were more sensitive than boys’.

But the jury rejected his argument and found the priest guilty of sexual abuse against four of the six girls before a judge handed down a 20-year sentence.

One of the girls originally reported the incident to her parents when it happened, but they only wrote a letter to the clergy asking to have the priest removed.

The priest was dismissed but no further action was taken, despite the claims of child abuse.

One of the victims had to be admitted to a mental health hospital to treat her for anxiety, fear of men and a general break down in behaviour.

During the court case in November, the judge blasted the Catholic church system for the ‘profound lack of protection in which the minors found themselves.’

He lamented a process that ‘encouraged forgetting the torment rather than reporting it, a practice that can cause long term effects.’

Spain’s Catholic priesthood is currently under intense scrutiny after decades of sexual abuse were revealed in February 2019 in various clergies across Barcelona and the Basque Country.

Just three years earlier, Spain’s largest pedophilia scandal emerged from Catholic run schools in Barcelona, with 43 individual complaints against 12 priests.

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