The French State has put the French Catholic Church in its place after affirming its highest representative that the secrecy of confession prevails over the laws of the Republic, statements that caused outrage in a shocked country after it was known that at least 216,000 minors were victims of pedophile priests in the last seven decades. In a meeting with the president of the French Episcopal Conference (CEF) and author of the controversial words, Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, reminded him on Tuesday that “there is no law superior” to the laws of the country and that any religious who knows of a “crime” against a minor under 15 years of age must report it to justice and not hide behind the secret of confession.
The bishop for his part has asked “forgiveness” for his “clumsy” statements, delivered a day after the devastating report of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (Ciase), and has assured that “it is necessary to work to reconcile nature of confession and the need to protect children ”.
Among the 45 recommendations that the Ciase made on Tuesday of last week to address the “systemic” problem of the French Church with pedophilia, was “to convey a clear message, indicating to confessors and the faithful that the secret of confession cannot to repeal the obligation, established by the penal code (…) to report to the judicial and administrative authorities the cases of sexual violence inflicted on a minor or a vulnerable person ”. Priests “owe ourselves to the secrecy of confession and, in that sense, it is stronger than the laws of the Republic,” replied the president of the CEF on the France Info station on Wednesday. A few words that earned him strong public disapproval and a convocation this Tuesday to the Ministry of the Interior at the express request of French President Emmanuel Macron.
“I have allowed myself to tell him [a Moulins-Beaufort], as I tell each one of the cults, that there is no law superior to the laws of the National Assembly and the Senate and that there is no law superior to those of the Republic ”, Darmanin explained in the question session to the Government in the Parliamentary Assembly after the “cordial” meeting with the archbishop in his office, held behind closed doors.
“The secret of confession has been integrated into our law for almost 200 years as a professional right,” he acknowledged before the deputies. However, he also recalled, this “suffers from exceptions, especially with regard to crimes committed against children under 15 years of age. It is clear that there can be no sanction against any religious or person who knows of sexual abuse against minors and that they must report it to the courts of our country in order to protect children ”.
“The extent of violence and sexual assaults against minors revealed by the CIAse report forces the Church to reread its practices in light of this reality”, has rectified Moulins-Beaufort in a statement issued after today’s meeting. The archbishop of Reims also assured the “determination” of the French Church to “make the protection of children an absolute priority, in close collaboration with the French authorities.”
As he has advanced, the bishops will begin to work on “the measures and reforms underway” and on those they are willing to undertake “based on” the 45 recommendations of the Ciase, which investigated sexual abuse since 1950 at the request of the Ciase itself. Bishops Conference. They will do so in their plenary assembly from November 3 to 8.
One of the points that probably creates the most headaches is the issue of compensation for victims. The French Church has opened an endowment fund with five million euros, a figure clearly insufficient to compensate such a large number of victims. The Ciase, which asks “to individualize the calculation of compensation for each victim” taking into account “the prejudices suffered rather than elaborating categories of perpetrated offenses”, has caused concern among the Church by insisting that it must “rule out asking for donations from the faithful ”to raise funds.