French Report Reveals 216,000 Minors Sexually Abused By Catholic Church Since 1950

An independent commission investigating cases of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in France revealed that more than 216,000 minors had been abused by at least 2,900 clergy members since 1950, the New York Times reports. The 2,500-page report compiled over three years shows the horrifying scope of abuse within France’s Catholic Church and is said to be the most extensive to date.

Victims have been silenced for years. Not only have church authorities failed to report incidents of sexual abuse, they also refused to discipline abusive clergy members or remove them from their posts. In addition, victims who came forward with allegations were repeatedly silenced, facts which Jean-Marc Sauvé, the president of the commission that compiled the report, described as “damning” and reflected a “systemic” failing by the church.

The failure to act for more than 70 years is inexcusable. As Sauvé said at a news conference held in Paris on Tuesday, the report demonstrates the deep-seated dysfunction and even cruelty within the Catholic Church in France. “The church failed to see or hear, failed to pick up on the weak signals, failed to take the rigorous measures that were necessary,” he said, adding that the church displayed a “deep, total, and even cruel indifference towards victims.”

The investigation which begat the report began in 2018. Roman Catholic authorities from the Bishop’s Conference of France and the national congregations conference ordered the investigation after facing severe backlash and criticism over its long list of sexual abuse scandals. As a respected and long-serving civil servant, headed up a commission called the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church. Victims welcomed the report, which finally offered a small bit of vindication.

The report compiled testimony and evidence from many sources. In addition to working with 6,500 victims and those close to them, Sauvé also called in 21 independent experts from the fields of history, psychology, theology, and sociology to aid in the investigation. He also held more than 250 hearings and worked with polling and research institutes for more detailed data. François Devaux, co-founder of victims association La Parole Libérée, praised the commission for its thoroughness. “Not only did they give a quantitative and qualitative account of the scope of sexual violence, they tried to understand where it came from — the institutional mechanisms,” he said.

It’s still unclear whether or not the Catholic Church will act on the report. The Catholic Church has a history of ignoring and even actively covering up sexual abuse, so it’s not hard to imagine that they may try to sweep this under the carpet and fail to act. However, here’s hoping there is finally an overall and accountability to be had. The victims deserve this and so much more.

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