MADRID — Spanish parliamentarians are tasking the country’s ombudsman with the first official investigation into the depth of sexual abuse committed by employees of Spain’s Catholic Church.

All lawmakers except for members of a far-right party that holds roughly 15 percent of the seats in Spain’s Congress of Deputies, or lower house, on Thursday backed the proposal introduced by socialists and a Basque nationalist party.

A separate proposal by three left-wing parties, including the ruling national coalition’s junior partner United We Can, to open a full parliamentary commission was rejected this week as consensus built around keeping the probe isolated from the political sphere.

The three parties ended up supporting leaving the probe in the hands of ombudsman Ángel Gabilondo because they said it guaranteed that the church will be held accountable.

Thursday’s vote was momentous on the back of increasing public harrowing accounts of abuse and an admission of the problem by some Catholic religious orders and bishops.

The Spanish Episcopal Conference, which for years rejected being investigated, last month announced it would task a private law firm with a year-long “audit” into past and present sexual abuse. The inquiry is meant to cover abuse by the clergy, teachers and others associated with the church.

Spain’s leading newspaper, El País, has compiled records of more than 600 cases of abuse involving twice as many victims, although the real number is believed to be much higher.

Gabilondo, 72, was named as the head of Spain’s ombudsman office in November after an agreement between the ruling center-left coalition and the leading opposition conservative party.

A professor of philosophy and former member of a Catholic brotherhood, he was Spain’s education minister from 2009-11 for a Socialist-led administration.

In a tweet, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that the probe is “a first step in trying to repair the pain of victims, who had not been heard until now.”