At least 216.000 people were victims of pedophilia within the French Catholic Church in the last 70 years, according to the final report of the Independent Commission on Abuses in the Catholic Church (Ciase). The figure increases to 330. 000 if they are counted also abuses committed by lay church personnel, as teachers in religious or catechism schools, according to an investigation started 32 months ago and revealed this Tuesday in Paris.
“These are overwhelming figures that demand very strong measures” by the Catholic Church, said the president of the commission, Jean-Marc Sauvé, when presenting the report. This shows, according to Sauvé, that the “silences” and “failures” of the French Catholic Church in cases of pedophilia since 1950 have a “systemic character” that requires profound reforms of the institution and its practices, including the secret of confession, he stressed. “Until the beginning of the years 2000, we observed a deep and cruel indifference towards the victims. They are not believed, they are not listened to, it is considered that they may have contributed to what happened to them, “he said. For this reason, he continued, the Ciase is “unanimous” in its conclusion: “The Church did not know how to see, it did not know how to listen, it did not know how to grasp the weak signals” and, if the victims had not, finally, taken the floor, “our society would continue to ignore or deny what happened. ”
The report also confirms that the number of sexual predators in the French Church is around 3. 000 priests or religious, a “minimum estimate”, as Sauvé explained to French media on the eve of the publication of the report.
“No there can be a common future without a work of truth, forgiveness and reconciliation ”, insisted the president of the commission just before delivering the report to two high representatives of the Church, the president of the Episcopal Conference (CEF), Éric de Moulins- Beaufort, and the president of the Conference of Men and Women Religious of France, the nun Véronique Margron. The Ciase “has contributed to the real work, now it is up to the Church to act and regain the trust of the faithful and the respect of society,” he said.
The breadth of the figures revealed and the voice of the victims “disturbs us, overwhelms us, surpasses what we expected”, acknowledged in turn Moulins-Béaufort, who did not skimp on his impact. The report “shames us, scares us,” he acknowledged, and assured that it does nothing more than “persuade” the French Church that “the necessary purification work must be carried out without rest.” He also expressed his “determination to act so that the refusal to listen, the intention to silence, to hide” denounced in the report “disappears” and there is a real change in attitude and response.
” My wish this day is to apologize, forgive each and every one, “added the president of the Episcopal Conference.
The decision to investigate cases of pedophilia in her bosom since 1950 was taken over by the Gallic Catholic Church at the end of 2018, when trials against religious for sexual abuse of minors or for silencing complaints multiplied throughout France received – as was the case of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, then Archbishop of Lyon – and at a time when the national and even international debate on the subject was growing, with highly mediated cases in the United States, Europe and even Australia. In February 2019, Pope Francis convened a synod on pedophilia in which he agreed to move from rhetoric to “concrete and effective measures.” At the end of that year, the Vatican announced two new laws that, among other things, liquidate the pontifical secret – which has been imposed since 1972 in matters and investigations of particular gravity – in the cases of abuse of minors by representatives of the Church.
In this context, the French Episcopal Conference (CEF) decided to entrust an independent commission with the task of investigating possible cases of pedophilia from 1950 and “the reasons that favored the way in which these matters were dealt with”, in addition to asking you to propose measures to avoid new cases in the future.
The mandate was given to Sauvé, a practicing Catholic and former vice president of the Council of State, who summoned 21 men and women of different fields – from legal experts to theologians, psychologists or social workers – and various religious denominations, even non-believers. Thus was born the Ciase, which about six months after its constitution, in June 2019, began to look for testimonies with which to compose its research and its proposals, now presented.
In total, the report, approved “by consensus”, according to Sauvé, consists of 2. 480 pages, 2. 000 of which are attached. Its preparation has required almost two and a half years of work, in part interrupted by the pandemic. To reach its conclusions and figures, which are “a minimum estimate”, as Sauvé himself warned in recent days, the Ciase worked on the basis of 6. 500 calls and testimonial emails received between June 3, 2019 and 31 October 2020, at the key stage of the Commission’s work, followed by 250 long auditions or interviews. In addition, the Ciase complemented its work with various surveys, including one at the national level on generalized abuses against minors, not only within the Church, to be able to contextualize the cases of religious, and also with the consultation of civil archives (judicial , police or press) and ecclesiastical. The investigation has cost about three million euros, financed by the Episcopate and by religious institutions.
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