French Report Casts New Light on Sexual Abuse in Catholic Church

PARIS — An unbiased fee investigating sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in France because the Nineteen Fifties stated on Tuesday that the abuse was much more pervasive and systemic than beforehand recognized, laying out in element how victims had been repeatedly silenced and the way church authorities had did not report or self-discipline abusive clergy.

The fee’s extremely awaited, 2,500-page report, meticulously compiled over the previous three years by unbiased consultants on the request of the Catholic Church in France, was probably the most in depth account up to now of the scope of sexual abuse by clergy in the nation, particularly towards kids and weak individuals.

Since 1950, about 216,000 minors have been abused by clergy members in France and there have been on the very least 2,900 to three,200 perpetrators of sexual abuse amongst clergy members, in keeping with an estimate by the fee that was based mostly on a demographic and archival evaluation.

Jean-Marc Sauvé, the president of the fee, stated that these numbers, whereas estimates, the place “damning” and mirrored a “systemic” failing by the church.

“The church did not see or hear, failed to select up on the weak indicators, did not take the rigorous measures that had been obligatory,” Mr. Sauvé stated at a information convention in Paris on Tuesday. For years, he stated, the church confirmed a “deep, whole and even merciless indifference towards victims.”

In 2018, confronted with rising criticism of the church’s dealing with of sexual abuse scandals, high Roman Catholic authorities in France — the Bishop’s Convention of France and the nationwide congregations convention — requested Mr. Sauvé, a well-respected, high-ranking civil servant, to steer a newly created investigative fee, referred to as the Unbiased Fee on Sexual Abuse in the Church.

Victims of abuse by clergy members, in addition to consultants in the matter, welcomed the report, however stated it was too early to inform if the church would act on the fee’s suggestions.

The report adopted related efforts in latest years to reveal or doc sexual abuse allegations towards Roman Catholic clergy members in Australia, Germany, Eire, Poland, america and different nations because the church continues to grapple with the devastation wrought by sexual abuse scandals during the last quarter-century.

“You’re a shame for our humanity,” François Devaux, co-founder of a victims affiliation, stated on the information convention on Tuesday, instantly addressing the numerous Catholic officers in the auditorium.

Mr. Devaux based La Parole Libérée, an affiliation of victims of Bernard Preynat, a former priest who was accused of sexually assaulting dozens of Boy Scouts from the Nineteen Seventies to the Nineties and who was convicted in a high-profile case final 12 months.

“It’s essential to pay for all of those crimes,” Mr. Devaux stated, emphasizing every phrase.

Mr. Sauvé chosen 21 consultants, together with sociologists, historians, jurists, psychologists and theologians, who dug via church, state and information archives, held over 250 hearings with witnesses and consultants, and labored with demographic, polling and analysis institutes.

Crucially, they labored in shut tandem with sexual abuse victims. Almost 6,500 individuals, victims or these near them, submitted oral or written testimony to the fee.

Many victims praised the fee for its thoroughness and hailed the report as a much-needed corrective after years of denial or minimizing from the church.

“Victims had been frightened that it’d tone issues down,” Mr. Devaux stated of the report. As a substitute, he stated in an interview, “they didn’t skip a single query.”

“Not solely did they provide a quantitative and qualitative account of the scope of sexual violence, they tried to grasp the place it got here from — the institutional mechanisms,” he added.

There was a rising reckoning with sexual abuse in the church in France after a sequence of high-profile scandals, particularly the Preynat affair, which embroiled a cardinal in Lyon who was accused of failing to report the abuse.

The case grew to become an emblem of the church’s failings and its secretive method to coping with abuse instances, but it surely additionally signaled a shift in the willingness of victims to talk out and problem church authorities.

“Earlier than that, issues had been dealt with with disgrace,” stated Isabelle de Gaulmyn, a high editor at La Croix, France’s main Catholic newspaper, who wrote a guide in regards to the Preynat case. “And so they stated, ‘No, we had been abused, we’re going to maintain individuals accountable, and we’re going to achieve this brazenly,’” she added, referring to Mr. Preynat’s accusers.

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