Spain's parliament Tuesday agreed to consider opening an inquiry into child sex abuse within the Roman Catholic church in a first in the deeply Catholic country.

Until now, there has never been an official investigation by the Spanish government or church into alleged abuse by members of the clergy in Spain. 

Podemos, the hard-left junior coalition partner in Spain's left-wing government, as well as pro-independence parties the Catalan ERC and the Basque EH Bildu, last week filed a petition to open a parliamentary probe into the matter.

The executive body of Spain's lower house of parliament said in a statement Tuesday it had approved the proposal.

To move forward, it will now need to be voted through by a simple majority of lawmakers, although no date has yet been set for such a vote.

The support of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialist party will be key during that plenary.

The Socialists in principle support the idea of a parliamentary inquiry, but are also mulling the idea of an independent commission of experts looking into the alleged abuses, as has happened in similar cases in Australia and the Netherlands.

The centre-right Ciudadanos party backs a parliamentary inquiry, but the right-wing opposition Popular Party is opposed unless the initiative is broadened to look at "all institutions" within Spain.  

The far-right Vox, Spain's third-largest parliamentary force, is staunchly opposed to any such probe. 

There are no official statistics on child sex abuse in Spain, but in 2018, El Pais newspaper began investigating abuse allegations and has since received details of 1,246 cases since the 1930s.

The church itself, which has only recognised 220 cases over the past 20 years, has never held a comprehensive investigation, insisting it has protocols in place to manage abuse allegations.

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