“Not reporting a crime learned of in the course of the secret of confession is not a cover up or a crime,” the secretary general of the Spanish bishops conference, Jose Maria Gil Tamayo, told a news conference.
This principle applied even in cases of sexual crimes, he added.
“This legal principle is recognised by the Spanish state for all religions,” he said.
Spain’s Catholic Church followed Holy See directives on the issue, he added.
His comments come as Spain is grappling with its biggest ever paedophilia scandal involving the Catholic Church in terms of the number of suspects.
A Spanish court last month charged 10 Catholic priests and two laymen with committing or abetting the sexual abuse of a teenage altar boy in the southern city of Cordoba.
Pope Francis said he had ordered a church investigation into the case after the complainant — who has not been identified — wrote to him, telling him he had been molested as an altar boy.
Earlier this month a court dropped charges against nine priests and the two laymen on the grounds that too much time had passed since the crimes they were accused of allegedly took place.
Spanish children’s rights association Prodeni, a civil plaintiff in the case, said it would appeal the decision.
The scandal has prompted other victims of clerical sexual abuse to come forward with complaints.
At the end of November, a 45-year-old man alleged he was abused in 1982 at a seminary in Tarragona in northeastern Spain when he was 11 years old. – AFP