French clergy sexually abused over 200000 children since 1950
A massive inquiry revealed on Tuesday concluded that French clergy sexually assaulted more than 200,000 children over the previous 70 years, and its authors accused the Catholic Church of turning a blind eye for far too long.
According to Jean-Marc Sauve, the director of the committee that prepared the report, the church had displayed “deep, complete, and even cruel indifference for years,” shielding itself rather than the victims of what was widespread abuse.
He said that the majority of the victims were boys, with many of them aged 10 to 13.
He said that the church not only failed to take the required precautions to avoid abuse but also neglected to disclose it and sometimes intentionally placed children in the hands of predators.
Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, the chairman of the French bishops’ conference, said the Church was ashamed. He begged pardon and vowed to take action.
The discoveries in France are the latest to shake the Roman Catholic Church, following a string of sexual abuse scandals involving youngsters across the world.
The committee was created at the end of 2018 by Catholic bishops in France to shine light on abuses and restore public trust in the church during a period of declining congregations. It has functioned independently of the Church.
The issue, according to Sauve, was still present. He went on to say that the church had exhibited utter indifference to victims until the 2000s, and that it only began to modify its stance in 2015-2016.
THE CHURCH IS ENCOURAGED TO REFORM
The Catholic Church’s teaching on topics such as sexuality, obedience, and the sanctity of the priesthood, according to Sauve, contributed to blind spots that allowed sexual abuse by clergy to occur, adding that the church needed to reform the way it approached those issues in order to rebuild trust with society.
According to the panel, the Church must accept responsibility for what occurred and guarantee that complaints of abuse are forwarded to legal authorities.
It must also give enough financial recompense to victims, “which, although not sufficient (to heal the pain of sexual assault), is still important since it completes the acknowledgement process.”
It also offered a series of recommendations, such as routinely examining the criminal background of anybody assigned by the Church to have regular contact with minors or vulnerable adults, and giving sufficient training to priests.
Sauve stated that the commission had identified around 2,700 victims through a request for testimony, and that thousands more had been discovered in archives.
However, a comprehensive investigation conducted by research and polling organisations concluded that there were around 216,000 victims, with the figure potentially increasing to 330,000 when abuse by lay members is included.
According to Sauve, the scope of the inquiry was unusual, with most previous inquiries of the Catholic Church’s sexual crimes focused on victims identified individually.
Over the previous 70 years, there have been around 2,900-3,200 alleged paedophiles in the French church, he noted.
At the report’s presentation, Francois Devaux, a survivor of church abuse and founder of the victims’ organisation La Parole Liberee, addressed church leaders, “You are a disgrace to our humanity.”
There have been heinous mass atrocities committed in this hell… but there has also been a betrayal of confidence, betrayal of morale, and betrayal of children.”
He accused the Church of cowardice and welcomed the committee, saying the report will serve as a watershed moment: “You finally bring victims institutional acknowledgement of the church’s culpability.”
The French results come a year after Britain revealed that the Catholic Church received over 900 complaints involving over 3,000 incidents of child sex abuse in England and Wales between 1970 and 2015, with more than 100 reported claims every year since 2016.
Pope Francis declared the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse issue a worldwide “catastrophe” in June. Since his election in 2013, he has made a number of efforts to eradicate priests’ sexual abuse of kids.
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