Bishops and priests of the French Catholic Church have sexually abused at least 216,000 minors in the last 70 years, according to an investigation published Tuesday, October 5. However, the number of victims rises to more than 330,000 if those affected by lay members are taken into account. The investigative committee accused the religious institution of ignoring the situation for too long and ordered reforms within the clergy.
Sexual abuse of children by the clergy of the Catholic Church in France has been “systematic.” They are the latest revelations to shake the religious institution after a series of scandals around the world that has violated thousands of minors for decades.
The investigation of a commission established by Catholic bishops in France at the end of 2018, but which worked independently of the Church, published a report on Tuesday, October 5, revealing that around 216,000 children were sexually abused by bishops and priests in the country from 1950 to 2000.
But the number could rise to 330,000 if attacks by lay members of the Church are included.
About 80% of the victims were male, children between the ages of 10 and 13. “The abuse was systematic,” said Jean-March Sauvé, head of the commission, during the presentation of the report.
“The Catholic Church is, after the circle of family and friends, the environment that has the highest prevalence of sexual violence,” asserts the document of conclusions with more than 2,500 pages.
According to the investigation, for decades the religious institution not only concealed, but allowed heinous crimes to continue to occur. In some cases, it even kept the victims in contact with their predators, despite having knowledge of what was happening. All to protect the Church from a scandal, reproaches the commission of investigators.
JM Sauvé: “Il ya une grosse concentration de victimes de 10/13 ans. Et même 11/12 ans. Des garçons. C’est une particularité nette de l’Eglise catholique. “
– ALEXANDRA RENARD (@ AlexRenardF24) October 5, 2021
The findings were made from surveys, research groups, and interviews with the victims. The delegation itself identified around 2,700 people who were abused through a call for testimony, and thousands more cases were found in archives.
The report found that the crimes were perpetrated by around 3,000 assailants, two-thirds of them were priests who worked in the church during the last 70 years, the period that was investigated.
“An embarrassment to humanity”
Francois Devaux, one of the victims of the attacks by members of the French Catholic Church and founder of the association of victims La Parole Libérée, told the representatives of the religious institution, during the presentation of the report: “You are a disgrace for our humanity (…) In this hell there have been abominable mass crimes, but there have been even worse things, betrayal of trust, betrayal of morals, betrayal of children “.
The devious institution must reform
Despite the large number of victims revealed, Devaux assured that it is “minimal”, as he pointed out that “some victims do not dare to speak or trust the commission.”
However, he pointed out that this report for the first time goes to the root of this problem. “The deviant institution must be reformed,” he added.
Although since 2015, the Catholic Church has launched investigations in an attempt to make up for its failings, the tragedy is not over. Suavé indicated that the problem continues, because until the 2000s the religious institution has shown a complete indifference that only began to clarify for approximately six years.
The church asks for forgiveness and urges reforms
Following the new revelations, the president of the French Episcopal Conference, Eric de Moulins – Beaufort, apologized to those who have suffered for decades the consequences of the abuses to which they were subjected.
“I wish on this day to ask for forgiveness, forgiveness from each one of you,” said the religious.
Meanwhile, the commission urged the clergy to take firm action while denouncing serious misconduct and “silence.” In addition, it demanded the French State to help compensate those affected, especially in the cases they have prescribed.
Although many continue to suffer serious psychological damage, few would obtain any kind of justice. According to Suavé, 22 crimes can still be prosecuted, which is why they have been referred to the Prosecutor’s Office.
He also exemplified that more other cases occurred long ago and could not be brought to court. However, aggressors who are alive are involved, so the accusations were referred to the ecclesiastical authorities.
With an eye toward a possible way to reduce heinous crime, the group of researchers came up with 45 recommendations. Among them, training for priests and other members of the Church, revision of Canon Law – the legal code used by the Vatican to run the church – and the promotion of policies that help to recognize and compensate victims.
The findings were revealed after the scandal involving the ousted priest Bernard Preynat, who acknowledged that he sexually abused 75 children over several decades. He was only sentenced to five years in prison.
This investigation also follows a series of investigations in other countries that uncovered abuses committed within the Catholic Church at least in the last 20 years.
With Reuters, AP and EFE