French Catholic Church inquiry finds 216,000 paedophilia cases since 1950
An investigation into sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church has found that an estimated 216,000 children were victims of abuse by clergy since 1950, Jean-March Sauvé, head of the commission that compiled the report, said on Tuesday.
The revelations in France are the latest to rock the Roman Catholic Church, after a series of sexual abuse scandals around the world, often involving children, over the past 20 years.
The abuse was systemic, Sauvé said at a public, online presentation of the report.
The Church not only did not take the necessary measures to prevent abuse but also turned a blind eye, failing to report abuse and sometimes knowingly putting children in touch with predators, he said.
Pope Francis reacted to the devastating report, expressing “great sorrow” for the victims. The message was relayed Tuesday via a Vatican spokesman who said the pontiff had learned the contents of the report “with pain”. “His thoughts turn first to the victims, with great sorrow for their wounds and gratitude for their courage in speaking out.”
The commission was established by Catholic bishops in France at the end of 2018 to shed light on abuses and restore public confidence in the Church at a time of dwindling congregations. It has worked independently from the Church.
Sauvé said the problem was still there. He added that the Church had until the 2000s showed complete indifference to victims and that it only started to really change its attitude in 2015-2016.
Sauvé said the commission itself had identified around 2,700 victims, but that a wide-ranging study by research and polling groups had estimated that there had been around 216,000 victims. The number could go up further to 330,000 when including abuse by lay members.
"You are a disgrace to our humanity," François Devaux, who set up victims' association La Parole Libérée, told church representatives at the public presentation of the report, before Sauvé took the floor.
"In this hell there have been abominable mass crimes ... but there has been even worse, betrayal of trust, betrayal of morale, betrayal of children," Devaux said, also accusing the Church of cowardice.
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.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)
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