PARIS, Oct 3 (The Remnants) – The French Catholic Church has had an estimated 3,000 paedophiles in its ranks over the past 70 years, the head of an independent commission investigating the sex abuse scandal said in an interview published on Sunday.
The scandal in the French Church is the latest to hit the Roman Catholic Church, which has been rocked by sexual abuse scandals around the world, often involving children, over the past 20 years.
The French commission is due to publish its findings on Tuesday, marking the culmination of 2-1/2 years of work, probing allegations of abuse going back to the 1950s.
“We have estimated the number (of paedophiles) as standing at 3,000, out of 115,000 priests and religious officials, going back to the 1950s,” commission head Jean-Marc Sauve told the Journal du Dimanche paper.
A spokesperson representing the French Catholic Bishops’ Conference declined to comment on Sauve’s remarks.
A Vatican spokesperson said it would wait for the full report to be published before deciding on whether to comment.
In June, Pope Francis said the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis was a worldwide “catastrophe”.
The French Catholic Church posted a prayer on its official Twitter account on Sunday, on behalf of victims, and added it would also hold a prayer on Oct. 5 – the day of the publication of the report.
“Dear Lord – we entrust to you all those who have been victims of violence and sexual attacks in the Church. We pray that we will always be able to count on your support and help during these ordeals,” it wrote on its Twitter account.
STEPS TO WIPE OUT ABUSE
Since his election in 2013, Francis has taken a series of steps aimed at wiping out sexual abuse of minors by clerics.
In 2019, the pope issued a landmark decree making bishops directly accountable for sexual abuse or covering it up, requiring clerics to report any cases to Church superiors and allowing anyone to complain directly to the Vatican if needed.
This year, he issued the most extensive revision to Catholic Church law in four decades, insisting that bishops take action against clerics who abuse minors and vulnerable adults. Critics have said he has not done enough.
The French Church, which has seen dwindling numbers of faithful in recent years, said in March it would propose financial compensation to those who were victims of abuse.
Last month, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cologne decided to take a “spiritual time-out” from his duties after committing grave errors in a crisis over clerical sexual abuse.
A report published last year in Britain said the Catholic Church received more than 900 complaints involving over 3,000 instances of child sex abuse in England and Wales between 1970 and 2015, and that there have been more than 100 reported allegations a year since 2016.
‘Waiting for this for years’
The report into sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church — set to publish Tuesday — will “change everything,” Katherine Dalle, head of communications for the Bishops’ Conference of France (CEF), told CNN Sunday.”
It is a very important moment for people who have been abused. It is an important moment for the church in France. Jean-Marc Sauvé has done remarkable work,” she said.
Church authorities sent a message to be read at every Parish in the country during Sunday Mass. It says that the publication of Tuesday’s report “will be a test of truth and a tough and serious moment.””
Pedophilia 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 continues.
Olivier Savignac, who runs a victims group called Parler and Revivre, said the release of the report would be like “a cyclone, a tsunami, a hurricane.””
This report will show the collective responsibility of the church,” he said. “We will finally have figures on the scale of the abuse, collected scientifically. We have been waiting for this for years.”
The Catholic Church in France has taken a number of steps to tackle the scourge of sexual abuse in recent years. In 2019, the Diocese of Paris signed a protocol with the city prosecutor to allow suspected abuse to be investigated without victims making an official complaint to the authorities.In March this year, the church voted in favor of 11 resolutions to tackle the problem, including: the establishment of a council “for the prevention and fight against pedophilia” and financial “contribution” for victims.
Savignac concedes that safeguards put in place have made it harder for abuse to take place, but told CNN that the “fight is not over.””
It is important for victims to see justice. Nine out of 10 people cannot get justice because the statute of limitations has passed or the perpetrator has died,” he said.”
There has always been collusion between the church in France and the Vatican to protect perpetrators of abuse. The church has been too moderate in following the word of God and taking care of the smallest and the weakest.”