World

French Catholic Church inquiry finds 216,000 sex abuse victims from 1950

Commission president Jean-Marc Sauve speaks during the publishing of a report by an independant commission into sexual abuse by church officials (Ciase) on October 5, 2021, in Paris. (Photo by Thomas COEX / various sources / AFP)

PARIS: An independent inquiry into alleged sex abuse of minors by French Catholic priests, deacons and other clergy has found some 216,000 victims from 1950 to 2020, a "massive phenomenon" that was covered up for decades by a "veil of silence."

The landmark report, released Tuesday after two and a half years of investigations, follows widespread outrage over a string of sex abuse claims and prosecutions against Church officials worldwide.

When lay members of the Church such as teachers at Catholic schools are included, the number of child abuse victims climbs to 330,000 over the seven-decade period.

"These figures are more than worrying, they are damning and in no way can remain without a response," the president of the investigative committee, Jean-Marc Sauve, said at a press conference.

"Until the early 2000s the Catholic Church showed a profound and even cruel indifference towards the victims," he said.

Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the Bishops' Conference of France (CEF) which co-requested the report, expressed his "shame and horror" at the findings.

"My wish today is to ask forgiveness from each of you," he told the news conference.

Sauve denounced the "systemic character" of efforts to shield clergy from sex abuse claims, and urged the Church to pay reparations even though And even though most cases are well beyond the statute of limitations for prosecution.

The report, at nearly 2,500 pages, found that the "vast majority" of victims were pre-adolescent boys from a wide variety of social backgrounds.

"The Catholic Church is, after the circle of family and friends, the environment that has the highest prevalence of sexual violence," the report said.

- 'Institutional recognition' -

Sauve had already told AFP on Sunday that a "minimum estimate" of 2,900 to 3,200 paedophiles had operated in the French Church since 1950.

Yet only a handful of cases prompted disciplinary action under canonical law, let alone criminal prosecution.

Francois Devaux, head of a victims' association, condemned a "deviant system" that required a comprehensive response under a new "Vatican III" council led by Pope Francis.

"You have finally given an institutional recognition to victims of all the Church's responsibilities, something that bishops and the pope have not yet been prepared to do," Devaux told the conference Tuesday.

The victim estimates were based in large part on a representative study carried out by France's INSERM health and medical research institute, with a statistical "confidence interval" of 50,000 people more or fewer.

Sauve and his team of 21 specialists, all unaffiliated with the Church, also interviewed hundreds of people who came forward to recount their histories.

"If the veil of silence covering the acts committed has finally been torn open... we owe it to the courage of these victims," he wrote.

"Without their testimony, our society would still be unaware or in denial of what happened."

The commission also had access to police files as well as Church archives, citing only two cases of refusals by Church institutions to turn over requested documents.

 

Recommended





Advertisement

Comments

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

Alert: If you are facing problems with posting comments, please note that you must verify your email with Disqus prior to posting a comment. follow this link to make sure your account meets the requirements. (http://bit.ly/vDisqus)

comments powered by Disqus

Advertisement

FOLLOW THIS ARTICLE

Interested in knowing more about this story?

Click here