Damning report reveals ‘overwhelming’ extent of sexual abuse in French Church
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Damning report reveals ‘overwhelming’ extent of sexual abuse in French Church

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The Independent Commission for Abuse in the Church (Ciase) that investigated sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church published its conclusions on Tuesday. The report estimates that some 216,000 minors, clerical subordinates and assistants were victims of abuse from 1950.

If those who were sexually abused by non-religious employees in Church institutions (such as teachers, wardens, and youth movement officials), the total number would be around 330,000 victims, president of the commission Jean-Marc Sauvé indicated. “These numbers are more than worrying – they are overwhelming and must under no circumstances pass without action,” he stated.

The report – around 2,500 pages long – highlights many alarming findings. Among these, the number of sexual predators is believed to number between 2,900 and 3,200 men (priests or clerics) between 1950 and 2020. Investigators stress that this is a “minimum estimation,” Belga News Agency reported.

The Ciase took two and a half years to deliver the report, released on Tuesday morning in Paris. In a public address, cofounder of a victims’ association François Devaux told Sauvé that the Ciase “finally brings institutional acknowledgement of the Church’s responsibility, something which neither bishops nor the pope had been capable of doing.”

Indeed, Sauvé stressed that the testimony of the victims had been “the heart of this work,” which was gathered following a call for statements that were heard over a 17 month period during 6,500 calls or interviews with victims or their close relations. These were followed by 250 longer hearings and consultations.

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As well as these accounts from victims themselves, the Commission looked through numerous archives from the Church, Ministers of Justice or the Interior, and the press. Once a case of sexual abuse had been identified, the Ciase also put in place a series of remedial measures: hearings with victims, preventative meetings, additional training for priests and members of religious institutions, and restructuring of Church management.

Moreover, the Ciase emphasises the need for political recognition of the great damage caused and recommends financial reparations. Yet in most cases, closure will be hard to find for victims as the compensatory measures proposed by the Ciase are only recommended rather than compulsory and the perpetrators often dead.

The report will be examined in extreme detail by Pope François, who met with a part of the French bishopry in September and has awaited this report since the start of his papacy.

The Brussels Times

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