Abuse in France a matter of shame


Pope Francis expressed shame and sadness after learning that around 3,000 people (2,000 clergy and 1,000 laypeople) abused some 216,000 children in the Catholic Church in France over the last 70 years.

Francis first thoughts were for the victims.

It is “with a deep sadness for their wounds and gratitude for their courage in coming forward,” the Vatican said in a statement.

“To the victims, I wish to express my sadness and my pain for the traumas they have endured and my shame, our shame, my shame that for so long the Church has been incapable of putting this at the centre of its concerns, assuring them of my prayers.”

“The Catholic Church’s inability to make victims of abuse their top concern is a cause for intense shame,” Francis said.

“Our shame. My shame”, he said.

Assuring victims of his prayers, the pope asked everyone at his general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall to pray with him: “To you, Lord, the glory; to us, the shame. This is the moment of shame.”

He invited the nation’s Catholics to take on their responsibility for guaranteeing that “the church be a safe home for everyone.”

Francis’ comments come after the release of an independent report on sexual abuse.

The head of the inquiry said there were at least 2,900-3,200 abusers and a third of them laypeople.

He accused the Church of showing a “cruel indifference towards the victims”.

François Devaux, who is also the founder of the victims’ association La Parole Libérée said there had been a “betrayal of trust, betrayal of morale, betrayal of children”.

The report marks a turning point in France’s history, he said: “You have finally given institutional recognition to victims of all the Church’s responsibility – something that bishops and the Pope have not yet been prepared to do.”

The report also said, “more than a third of sexual assaults within the French Catholic Church were committed, not by clergy or monks, but by laypeople.”

It noted the number of abused children could rise to 330,000, when taking into account abuses committed by lay members of the Church in France, such as teachers at Catholic schools.

A report summary notes it draws a picture of “sexual violence that decreased over time but is still present; that it is based on numerous clearly identified traits of a systemic nature. The trauma suffered by the victims is compounded by the perpetrator’s standing,”.

“In all the testimonials … the first cry is for justice.

“In other words, before proclaiming ‘it must never happen again,’ the ‘it’ has to be recognized, acknowledged, and described, those responsible for ‘it’ need to be designated and, in as far as is possible, reparation for ‘its’ consequences need to be found.

‘It is not enough for the church to claim awareness, albeit too late in the day. Or to claim that the past is the past and that for today’s and tomorrow’s children and vulnerable persons the same mistakes will not be repeated.”

“The way in which victims spoke out or broke their silence, as they told the commission of their experiences, shows just how long and obstacle-strewn this process is and how it is all too rarely properly taken into account or followed up by the entourage or institution,” it said.


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