MADRID — Spain’s public prosecutors are suggesting opening a national investigation into the sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church, the first such official proposal in the country.

In a written report to the Ministry of Justice, the Spanish prosecutor’s office says that new ways to face “a criminal reality of undoubted gravity” should include learning from the national commissions set up in Australia and the Netherlands, and the investigation led by bishops in Austria.

The report says 965 cases involving underage victims were prosecuted in 2017 and 1,091 in 2018. But it warns that the picture is incomplete because abuses happen in “environments traditionally clad in certain opacity.”

The prosecutor’s office also recommends abuses be reported directly to authorities, without going through any internal evaluation by church officials.

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