Representatives of the Catholic Church in France abused 216 thousand children, investigators found

Representatives of the French Catholic Church have sexually abused 216,000 children, mostly boys, since 1950, according to an independent commission of inquiry. The number of victims will increase to 330,000, including crimes by lay people who have worked for the church, such as teachers in religious schools or charities. The results of the two-year investigation were presented on Tuesday by Commission President Jean-Marc Sauvé.

Compared to national French According to statistics, sexual crimes committed by church leaders represent about four percent of all these crimes committed in France, Sauvé said.

Boys represent 80 percent of the victims, girls 20 percent. These numbers are about the same as for sexual violence against children in general, where boys make up 75 percent of victims.

The Commission proposes that the Church set up a tribunal to deal with the misdeeds of its representatives. The church should also compensate the victims financially, Sauvé said. The final report of the commission has 485 pages and over 1500 pages of appendices. In addition to its findings, the Commission also makes suggestions on how to improve the situation in the Church and in other similar institutions in the future. She referred several cases to the judiciary for investigation and possible prosecution.

In front of journalists, Sauvé criticized the approach of the church, which until 2000 showed “deep and complete disinterest, and even cruelty to the victims.” “We need to get rid of the idea that sexual violence in the church has been eradicated. The problem persists,” the commission chairman said.

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Since 1950, there have been 2,900 to 3,200 priests and religious in the French Catholic Church who have sexually abused children, Sauvé said on Sunday. In the last 70 years, a total of about 115,000 priests and religious have passed through the French Catholic Church.

In France, according to these figures, the proportion of aggressor priests is approximately 2.6 percent. The Commission stated for comparison that this share is lower than in other countries. It is 4.4 percent in Germany, 4.8 percent in the United States, seven percent in Australia and 7.5 percent in Ireland. However, the statistics in these countries follow different methods, so the figures need to be taken with caution.

More than estimated

After the publication of the commission’s conclusions, the chairman of the French Bishops’ Conference, Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, expressed regret and shame and asked the victims for forgiveness. According to him, the number of victims is significantly higher than originally estimated. In early March, the commission issued an estimate that some 10,000 people in France had been victims of sexual abuse by church officials since 1950. The newly published conclusions are more than twenty times higher.

“I would like to ask you for forgiveness today, please forgive each and every one of you. Thanks to the report, we have heard the voices of the victims and how many there were. According to him, the bishops will definitely find enough time to read the whole report, he added.

Véronique Margron, President of the French Conference of Monks and Nuns, said that there was nothing more to add to these findings, that it was only possible to “feel deep, absolute shame”. She described the violence against children as a tragedy and expressed sadness.

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Twenty civil and ecclesiastical law experts, historians, psychologists and doctors, all without a fee, worked on the report for more than two years, writes Le Figaro. The Church contributed three million euros (76 million crowns) to the activities of the commission. The National Commission of Inquiry was set up at the instigation of the French Catholic Church in 2018 after a series of revelations of sexual harassment of children in France and also in response to a number of scandals in neighboring countries, notably Germany.

The Commission focused on the development of sexual offenses against children over the years, dividing the period into three sections. Aggressions by church leaders were most common between 1950 and 1970, when 56 percent of them were committed. Another 22 percent were committed between 1970 and 1990 and 22 percent in the last 30 years. Over time, the proportion of church acts of violence in all sexual assaults has also declined. While they accounted for eight percent in the 1950s, they were two percent in the most recent period.

The commission examined the testimonies of 1,628 victims of sexual crimes, conducted interviews with 11 aggressors and browsed documents from dozens of archives. The resulting published number is a statistical estimate, the deviation is up to 50,000 people. In fact, according to the commission, between 166,000 and 266,000 can be victims of sexual violence against children.

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