According to a disturbing new investigation, members of the French Catholic Church have sexually molested 216,000 minors, predominantly boys, since 1950. According to the head of the inquiry, there were at least 2,900-3,200 perpetrators. Also, the Church was accused of ‘cruel indifference to the victims.’
The discoveries have been met with humiliation and dismay by a top person in the French Church, who has prayed for forgiveness for such a heinous crime. Further, one of the abused victims also said it was high time that the Church re-evaluated its actions. In the greatest rewrite of the criminal code in over 40 years, Pope Francis updated the Roman Catholic Church's statutes to expressly criminalize sexual abuse earlier this year.
Count could be higher
According to the investigation report, if assaults by lay members of the Church, such as teachers at Catholic institutions, are factored in, it will give an even more gruesome picture. The number of children assaulted in France, in that case, might reach 330,000. François Devaux, who is also the founder of the victims' organization La Parole Libérée (Freed Speech), admitted that there had been a ‘betrayal of confidence, betrayal of morale, betrayal of children’ after the heart-breaking discovery came to light.
The report's release comes in the wake of one of the many abuse allegations and charges against Catholic Church officials worldwide. The French Catholic Church commissioned the inquiry, which spent more than two and a half years looking through judicial, police, and Church archives and interviewing victims and witnesses.
Did the Church facilitate the crime?
The 2,500 pages long report proves that a great majority of the victims were boys aged between 10 and 13. The commission discovered evidence of up to 3,200 offenders out of a total of 115,000 priests and other clerics; it stated that this number was likely underestimated. It claimed that the Church not only failed to prevent abuse, but also neglected to disclose it. At times, knowingly put children in the abuser’s way.
The Catholic Church is, after the circle of family and friends, the environment that has the highest prevalence of sexual violence.
The revelation is a difficult one to process and will leave many in France reeling, the head of the inquiry Jean-Marc Sauvé said:
These figures are more than worrying, they are damning and in no way can remain without a response.
Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the Bishops' Conference of France (CEF), responded by saying:
My wish today is to ask forgiveness from each of you.