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French Catholic Church accepts 'responsibility' for abuse

November 5, 2021

French bishops have agreed that the church allowed for the abuse of children to become "systemic." The recognition follows the release of a shocking report last month.

Priests wakling in a church, where their backs are seen
A report released last month found that around 216,000 children were victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic ChurchImage: Julie Sebadelha/ABACAPRESS/picture alliance

The French Catholic Church bears "institutional responsibility" for the thousands of child abuse cases documented in a report released in October, French bishops said on Friday.

The church allowed the abuse to become "systemic," said Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, chair of the country's Bishops Conference.

"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.

What was in the report?

On October 5, 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, two-thirds of them priests, worked in the Catholic Church in France over seven decades.

There were an estimated 216,000 victims of such abuse. The report found that the "vast majority" of victims were young boys from a variety of social backgrounds.

It described the abuse as a "massive phenomenon" that had been covered up for decades by a "veil of silence."

France: Child abuse by priests

Church upgrades responsibility

In March, the bishops had already announced that the church stood ready to "accept its responsibility by asking forgiveness for these crimes and these shortcomings."

But on Friday, de Moulins-Beaufort said the church was now doing so "in a stronger, clearer and more categorical manner."

Abuse victims boycott meeting

Abuse victims had been invited to join the meeting, but many declined.

Some were disappointed that the church made the sexual abuse scandal just one of several topics on its agenda, rather than the sole issue.

The 120 bishops from across France are expected to spend the remainder of the conference, which ends Monday, examining the proposals in the independent commission's report.

The commission recommended, for example, that the church accept civil and social responsibility for the abuses, separately from the individual responsibility of the abusers. It also said financial compensation should be calculated for each individual case according to the severity of abuses suffered.

kmm/nm (AFP, dpa)