Every French parish read a message from Church authorities during Sunday Mass stating that the October 7 report would be “a test of truth and a tough and serious moment.”
MONEYCONTROL NEWSOCTOBER 04, 2021 / 11:05 AM IST
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A report from an independent commission into sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church has revealed between 2,900 and 3,200 paedophile clergymen have worked in the institution since the 1950s, CNN reported on October 3. The final report is due to be released on October 7.
French civil servant Jean-Marc Sauvé told the publication the commission crossed “historical, sociological, medical and psychiatric perspectives” and channelled skills in “social work, child protection and questions of abuse” besides considering the theology and law, for its task.
The French Catholic Church was reached for comment, the report added.
Katherine Dalle, head of communications for the Bishops’ Conference of France (CEF) told CNN that the report will “change everything”. She added that it is a “very important moment for those who have been abused and for the church in France”. She also commended Sauvé for his “remarkable work”.
Stating that creating the commission was “important” to addressing “this secret and hideous side of our society”, Sauvé said a lot of work went into the report over 32 months.
“I went through a season of hell. I hope you can take them out of this sort of isolation syndrome, of blindness. They are still in denial, contempt, and minimize issues,” Christian Dubreuil, a survivor who was abused when he was 11 years old, testified before the commission.
Sauvé added that the task of listening to all the survivors was not delegated to research laboratories, who only conducted “some of the hearings” and that they also directed survivors to resources such as legal, medical and psychological support organisations.
Comprised of 21 individuals, it was set up by the French Catholic Church hierarchy and religious institutes in 2018 after a series of abuse cases emerged.
The commission was set up before current Pope Francis issued an edict in May 2019 directing new rules for reporting sexual abuse in the Catholic Church – which for the first time mandated all dioceses to set up systems to report abuse and cover-ups.
While the commission is financed by the French Catholic Bishops conference, members are not paid or directed by the Church, the report added. The Church also made accessible to the commission archives of dioceses and religious institutions.
As per the commission’s website, the report aims to “establish facts and provide an understanding of what happened to prevent such tragedies” in the future, but “does not aim to establish personal responsibility”.
Impact of the report
Every French parish read a message from Church authorities during Sunday Mass on October 3 stating that Tuesday’s report would be “a test of truth and a tough and serious moment.”
“Paedophilia concerns all of us. I invite all of you to have an attitude of truthfulness and compassion among yourselves with regards to this report,” it said.
The report will be delivered to the CEF and the CORREF and released at a press conference Tuesday to which representatives of victims’ associations are invited, AFP reported.
“It’s not going to go easy on anyone,” said Philippe Portier, a sociologist who was part of the commission.
“It will have the effect of a bomb”, added Olivier Savignac, of the victims’ association Parler et Revivre.
Bishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, the president of the CEF, said he feared the report would reveal “significant and frightening figures”, during a meeting with parishioners from his diocese.
Sauve had said in November that the handling of suspected paedophile cases “in the past has often been faulty”.
He said it was “extremely serious that there could have been some institutions and some communities, in small number, where systemic abuses could have been committed”.
In most cases, however, the prosecution is unlikely because the abuse occurred beyond French statutes of limitations, and it remains unclear what actions the church itself will take against offenders.
The report is expected to be closely studied at the Vatican, where the issue was raised by the pope in September during a meeting with French bishops.
“I expect that we will be forced to confront this burden, as bleak as it is, so that we can then take the necessary measures,” said Veronique Margron, president of the CORREF conference.(With inputs from AFP)