Preliminary results of an investigation by an independent commission revealed that between 2,900 and 3,200 people have been involved in sexual crimes against children in the Catholic Church in France over the past 70 years, according to an unprecedented report to be published Tuesday after a long wait.
After two and a half years of work, the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse of Children in the Church since 1950, headed by Jean-Marc Sauvé, publishes the results of its investigations on Tuesday, in a report that is “2,500 pages”, including the annexes linked to it, he said.
The report will be handed over to the “Conference of the Bishops of France” and the “Conference of Congregations and Congregations” (Courif), which requested the investigation. This will be done at a press conference in which representatives of victims’ associations are invited.
A member of the independent commission, who requested anonymity, told AFP that the report “would be an explosion.” “It will have the effect of a bomb,” Olivier Savignac, of the Parlée et Rouvre group, said.
“He will not be partisan,” asserts sociologist Philippe Portier, another member of the commission.
Archbishop Eric de Moulin Beaufort, president of the French Bishops’ Conference, told a meeting with his parishioners that he feared the report would contain “frightening and large numbers”.
In a message addressed to priests and parishes at the weekend mass, the episcopate indicated that publishing the report “would be a test of truth and a cruel and dangerous moment,” calling for “an attitude of truth and mercy.”
Commission head Jean-Marc Sauvier told AFP on Sunday that there had been “between 2,900 and 3,200 child sex offenders” from priests and other clergymen in France’s Catholic Church since 1950.
He added that “this is the minimum estimate” that is based on a count and examination of documents (church, judiciary, judicial police and the press) and testimonies received by this committee.
These are part of the total number of clergy, which reached 115 thousand during the seventy-year period.
The report will include a presentation of the scale of the phenomenon, especially the number of victims. He will compare the prevalence of sexual violence in the church with violence in other institutions (sports associations, schools, etc.) and in the family circle.
The committee will also assess the “mechanisms, particularly institutional and cultural” that may have encouraged this type of crime and will make 45 proposals.
Souve noted in November that “the management of these issues has often been wrong in the past,” considering that “it is very dangerous that there were some institutions and a few societies where systematic violations may have been committed.”
After drawing up its report, the commission draws up a list of 45 proposals that will address several areas such as listening to victims, prevention, training for priests and monks, canon law and changing church management. It will also recommend an recognition and compensation policy.
For its work, the commission made victims’ words its “motor of action,” Souvet said, first with a 17-month call for testimony that allowed for 6,500 calls or contacts with victims or their relatives, and then through 250 long hearings or research interviews.
She also deepened her research in several archives (the Church, the Ministries of Justice and Interior, and newspapers).
In most cases, the case has become obsolete and the plaintiffs have died, making it unlikely that a court will go to court. The Church’s actions themselves, if taken, are lengthy and largely opaque.
“I am waiting for us to face this burden, no matter how bad it is, so that we can then take the necessary measures,” said Veronique Margron, president of the Conference of Religious Institutions.
The episcopate did not promise compensation, but rather financial “contributions”, to be paid to the victims as of 2022, but there is no consensus among them.
The first responses from the two institutions are expected in November, when the two institutions hold their public meetings.
The Vatican will scrutinize the report, while Pope Francis discussed the issue with a number of French bishops who visited the Vatican in September.
Between the imposition of sanctions on bishops and other clergy, the Pope’s visit to Ireland and the organization of an unprecedented summit in 2019 on “the protection of minors” and the amendment of canon law, the fight against crimes against children is a file that the Vatican attaches importance to.
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