MADRID?Spain's Roman Catholic leadership said Friday that there "are very few cases" of child sex abuse cases involving priests in the country even as it called for tough measures against those that do emerge.
"In Spain, there are very few cases. We can not give the idea that it is a generalized problem," the spokesman of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, told a meeting of the body in Madrid.
"But a single case of such accusations is one too many. The Church wants to be the first in line to protect children from abuse."
To curb these abuses "what will be done more carefully, is an application of the existing law within the Church to prevent, correct and punish these crimes".
The bishop did not explicitly state if the Spanish Church would denounce to police priests suspected of pedophilia, as Pope Benedict XVI has suggested.
During a meeting with sex abuse victims on a trip to Malta last weekend, the pope said "the Church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future".
In many countries, criminal priests often escape prosecution because victims often do not come forward until decades after the abuse, when the statute of limitations has expired.
The Church's own canon law also has a statute of limitations, set at 10 years after the victim turns 18, but experts believe the limit may soon be scrapped.
Spain, a country with a strong Catholic tradition, has been largely unscathed by the pedophilia scandals involving the Church which have erupted around the world.
But it is unclear if there are have been few actual cases of abuse or if they have simply not been made public or reported.
Last month a Spanish member of the Clerics of Saint Viator, Jose Angel Arregui, was convicted in Chile for possessing child pornography, including images he made with a hidden camera at schools where he taught in Spain.
In 2004 a priest in Andalusia in the south was sentenced to 11 years in jail for abusing six children, a decision that local residents celebrated by setting off fireworks.