WelCom November 2021
The French Catholic Church has expressed ‘shame’ and pleaded for forgiveness, after a devastating report found that at least 330,000 children were victims of sexual abuse by clergy and lay members of church institutions over the past 70 years.
The publication of the landmark report, France’s first major reckoning with what the Catholic Church accepted was ‘appalling’ abuse, has shaken the country with its horrific findings of a ‘massive phenomenon’ of sexual abusers of children operating for decades within the Church and its associated institutions.
The two-and-a-half-year independent inquiry found that staggering numbers of children were subjected to sexual violence by priests and clergy while the crimes were covered up in a ‘systemic way’ by a deliberate ‘veil of silence’ in the Church.
The president of the investigative committee, Jean-Marc Sauvé, told a press conference: ‘Until the early 2000s the Catholic Church showed a profound and even cruel indifference towards the victims.’
The report found an estimated 216,000 children were victims of sexual violence by French Catholic priests, deacons and other clergy from 1950 to 2020. When lay members of the Church, such as teachers and catechism supervisors, were included, the figure rose to at least 330,000 children sexually abused over 70 years.
It said the ‘vast majority’ of victims were boys, who came from a wide variety of social backgrounds and who were attacked at a young age before reaching adolescence. Some sex offenders inside the Church were ‘predators’ on a vast scale who targeted extremely high numbers of children over long periods, with some attacking more than 150 victims.
Sauvé said the numbers of victims were ‘damning’ and ‘in no way can remain without a response’. He urged the Church to pay reparations even though most cases were well beyond the statute of limitations for prosecution. He recommended the Catholic Church overhaul its internal legal system, reform its governance, rethink training and look at the dynamics that allowed the abuse to take place – namely the overwhelming power of priests and ‘the identification of a priest to Christ’.
Sources: Reuters, BBC News