NSHE SHEER The numbers were overwhelming. Between 1950 and 2020, at least 216,000 children were sexually abused by Catholic clergy in France. Therefore, on October 5, we completed a two-year independent investigation commissioned by the Church. Jean-Marc Sauve, who led it, said he revealed the “weight of silent lead that chokes crime” committed by 2,900-3,200 clerics. The number of abuses can reach 330,000, including general molesters involved in church activities.
The introduction to Sauvé’s report is calm and unwavering. “The immediate reaction of the Catholic Church was to protect its institutional status,” and it “showed complete, even cruel indifference to those in distress.” About 90% of the victims were boys, many between the ages of 10 and 13. He called for “a humble approval of responsibility from church authorities for mistakes and crimes committed with their support.”
Crime in France involved misguided trust, manipulated authority, concealment, silence, and an ominous net of shame, as revealed by reports of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy elsewhere. I was there. Abuse was national: in local parishes, scout groups, catechism classes, and families. Pope Francis expressed “great sadness” to the victims. François Devaud, who was sexually abused at the age of 10 and later founded a group of victims, simply called what they experienced “hell.”
It was the efforts of survivors like Mr. Debeau that forced the church to confront its denial and concealment. He and others came forward in 2015 to blame priest and scout leader Bernard Preynat for sexual abuse. Preynat was convicted last year. In 2019, the accusation prompted Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who was convicted of concealing the Planato case, to resign (the conviction was overturned by an appeal).
France has an unusual connection with Catholicism due to the strict secular rules known as LaiciteDesigned to keep the nation neutral in religious affairs. It lacks an extensive network of boarding schools and state institutions linked to churches that helped hide pedophilia in some other countries. However, this did not protect the victims.
Today, the Catholic Church in France is a hollowed out version of its former self. The priesthood of 12,000 people is half that of 20 years ago, and half of those who serve are over 75 years old. Only 49% of French say they believe in God. Two years ago, 56% said in one survey that the image of the Catholic Church was bad. This week’s report will take hold of these trends.
The church is not the only French stage where the denial of sexual abuse has been exposed. The other is politics. Here, until #MeToo, sexual violence against women tended to be subdued. Two recent books also reveal how members of the Parisian circle on the left bank developed the principle of sexual freedom to hide abuse and incest. By exposing the manipulation and cruelty of predators, those brave enough to speak may help prevent such abuse from being undetected for a long time in the future. ■■
This article was published in the printed European section under the heading “The Weight of Silence”.
The French Catholic Church recognizes a phenomenal pattern of sexual abuse
Source link The French Catholic Church recognizes a phenomenal pattern of sexual abuse