French clergy have sexually abused more than 200,000 children over the past 70 years, a major investigation released Tuesday found, and its authors accused the Catholic Church of turning a blind eye for too long.
Jean-Marc Sauve, the head of the commission that compiled the report, said the church had shown “deep, total and even brutal indifference for years”, defending itself rather than the victims of systemic abuse. Was.
Most of the victims were boys, he said, many of them aged between 10 and 13.
He said the church not only took necessary measures to stop the abuse but also failed to report it and sometimes intentionally put children in contact with predators.
Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, head of the French conference of bishops, said the church was embarrassed. He apologized and promised to take action.
Following a series of worldwide sexual abuse scandals that often involve children, the revelations in France are the latest to shake the Roman Catholic Church.
The commission was set up in late 2018 to shed light on abuses by Catholic bishops in France and to restore public confidence in the church in a time of declining congregations. It has worked independently of the Church.
Sauve said the problem was still there. He said the church had shown complete indifference to the victims by the 2000s and it really started to change its approach only in 2015-2016.
The Catholic Church’s teaching on topics such as sexuality, obedience and the sanctity of the priest helped create blind spots that allowed sexual abuse by the clergy to take place, Sauve said, giving the church ways to approach those issues to rebuild the faith. needs to be improved. Society.
The commission said the church should take responsibility for what happened and ensure that reports of abuse are communicated to the judicial authorities.
It should also provide victims with adequate financial compensation, “which, while not sufficient (to address the trauma from sexual abuse), is still inevitable as it completes the recognition process.”
It includes a list of recommendations that include systematically examining the criminal record of any person and providing priests with adequate training for the Church to be in regular contact with children or vulnerable people.
Sauve said the commission itself had identified about 2,700 victims through a call for testimony, and thousands more were found in the archives.
But a comprehensive study by research and polling groups estimated that there were about 216,000 victims, and that number could rise to 330,000 if abuse by ordinary members is included.
Sauve said the scale was unprecedented, with most other Catholic Church sexual abuse investigations focused on the victims individually.
He said there have been around 2,900-3,200 suspected pedophiles in the French Church over the past 70 years.
François Deveaux, the founder of La Parole Libre, a union of church abuse victims and victims, told church representatives in the presentation of the report: “You are a disgrace to our humanity.
“There have been ghastly gang crimes in this hell…but worse, there has been a betrayal of trust, a betrayal of morale, a betrayal of children.”
He accused the Church of cowardice and thanked the commission, adding that the report would prove to be a turning point: “You finally give institutional recognition of the responsibility of the Church to the victims.”
The French findings come a year after Britain said the Catholic Church had received more than 900 complaints of child sexual abuse in England and Wales between 1970 and 2015, and more than 100 in a year from 2016. There were reported allegations.
In June, Pope Francis said the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis was a worldwide “disaster”. Since his election in 2013, he has taken several steps aimed at eliminating sexual exploitation of minors by clerics.
This year, he issued the most comprehensive amendment to Catholic Church law in four decades, insisting that bishops take action against clerics who abuse minors and vulnerable adults.
But critics accused Francis of reacting too slowly to sexual abuse scandals, failing to empathize with victims, and blindly believing the word of his fellow pastors.