French Catholic Church accepts it allowed “systemic” abuse

The French Catholic Church allowed the child abuse to become “systemic,” said Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, chair of the country’s Bishops Conference.

In a statement on Friday, the conference said the French Catholic Church bears “institutional responsibility” for the thousands of child abuse cases documented in a report released in October.

“This responsibility implies a duty to provide justice and reparation,” Moulins-Beaufort said.

He made the comments at the conference’s annual meeting following a vote by the bishops.

In October, an independent commission published findings on child sex abuse in France’s Catholic Church between 1950 and 2020.

The 2,500-page document details how an estimated 3,000 child abusers worked in the Catholic Church in France over seven decades. Two-thirds of the abusers were priests.

There were an estimated 216,000 victims of sexual abuse. The report found that the “vast majority” of victims were young boys from various social backgrounds.

Abuse victims had been invited to join the meeting, but many declined. Around 100 laypeople also received invitations to attend, but many couldn’t due to the late notice.

“We had to clear our calendars at the last minute,” said Dominique Quinio, president of the French Social Weeks. She is also a member of the steering committee of “Promesses d’Eglise”, a network of reform-minded Catholic groups.

The invitations were sent out in the context of the recently published report on Church sexual abuse in France. The invitations were for the lay Catholics to join the bishops in various working groups, rather than address them as an entire body in general assembly.

But many of these laypersons said on the eve of the meeting that they wanted to help the prelates understand their feelings of “anger” at the findings by the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE).

“There is a lot of anger, especially among the pillars of the Church,” said Sylvie Bukhari, president of CCFD-Terre Solidaire and a member of Promesses d’Église.

Sabine Adrien, a member of Altercathos, said, “In the wake of the CIASE report, I was torn between sadness and hope”.

“But this hope was very quickly dashed by statements from bishops, which made me very angry. Especially so, since the commission also noted very recent cases of mismanagement,” Adrien admitted.

According to the document, two bishops, one in 2019 and the other in 2020, arranged a rapid departure abroad for two Fidei Donum priests accused of sexual abuse.

“The laity did not wait to be invited to Lourdes to give warnings and express their discontent,” emphasized Arnaud Bouthéon, who is involved in several ecclesial movements and structures.

“The laity can be given more responsibility!” he insisted.

“Share, delegate and surround yourself with more men and women,” is the message Dominique Quinio intends to tell the bishops.

But many of the lay people invited to the CEF plenary fear the bishops will not really listen to them. They question that the laity are there just for show.

“I wonder about the process. Is everything already locked in place?” one of them wondered.

“I hope we don’t just serve as a decoration,” warned another.


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